Delve deeper into a wine’s past—you may be surprised at what you may find.
We are all looking for connection. That feeling of being engaged and a part of something compels us to seek friendship, intimacy and meaningful relationships. We search for genuine experiences that leave lasting impressions not only on our senses, but also in our very being, whether it is music, culture, art—and yes—even in wine. With all the wines that are tasty and good in our world, there is more than just flavor. There is the story behind the wine. And that is what drives those of us that love wine to comb deeper into its depths. That is what separates wine from any other beverage in the world. There is flavor, but there is also pedigree, a sense of place, connection and even romance.
What is pedigree in wine? The ancestry and history of wine is ancient. Many wine estates around the globe can count generations of winemakers in their families. The beautiful art and craft of growing vines and making wine is passed down from one generation to the next. Take the Antinori family of Italy, whom I admiringly call “the first family of wine” in Italy. They have been producing for 26 generations. They pioneered the Super Tuscan category, were the first to use barriques in Chianti, the first to do without using white grapes in the Chianti blend; the list goes on for firsts. This is all with just a single wine by the name of Tignanello. Isn’t that much more stimulating to the mind than a pretty label? Take a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy such as Romanée-Conti, which is perhaps the most famous red wine in the world. This 1.8 hectares of vines has been written about for centuries as one of the most revered, coveted and fabulous wines in the world. And take any one of the First Growth Estates in Bordeaux: Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion and Mouton Rothschild. Each of these estates has been producing wine for well over a century at the highest level despite different ownerships, but even their owners had the respect and sense to continue their production even through wars, family feuds and crises. When you purchase, drink and enjoy these wines, there is no denying their pedigree.
Wine’s other connection is to the land. The confluence of the earth, soil, vine, topography, geology, aspect and climate is given a succinct name—terroir. But it is also is the idea that a wine can convey a unique and singular flavor associated with the earth in which it was grown. No other beverage can claim the same quality. So when you drink a bottle of Harlan Estate, that deep, rich earth-coaxed flavor bolstered by the black plum and blackberry flavors, married to sweet vanilla and spice is unique. Even the sundrenched fruit of Colgin’s Red IX Estate blend is different from Heitz Martha’s Vineyard. There is a red stone spiciness in the Riesling from Gunderloch Nackenheimer Rothenberg and the green slatey appeal of Zilliken’s Saarburger Rausch vineyard. Each wine will have its own identity or sense of place. It is akin to a thumbprint for a person. It is not easy to find in wines that are blended from a myriad of vineyards, but when a single vineyard presents its true expression, it is unforgettable.
Who wouldn’t want a little romance? Wine is filled with romance. Just visit a place like Clos Sainte Magdeleine in the village of Cassis, Provence snuggled up against the azure blue of the Mediterranean Sea and you will instantly fall in love with its wines. The picturesque landscape where vines spring forth in tidy rows have inspired writers and artists a plenty. Whether it is Tuscany, Provence, Sonoma or the Barossa Valley, visiting the region and seeing where the wine comes is more than alluring—it is romantic. And knowing where the wine comes from, that it has a specific unique place that it calls its source or home, gives us a healthy sense of being grounded. Wines with a mere label or brand certainly have a huge impact in the wine industry; history has shown that many of them are results of shorter trends and fashion. But the romance behind a wine that has a home is something that will never go away.
All of this comes back to our connection with the wine. It is part of the backstory behind the wine. This is something more and more drinkers long for and go further to find. That bit of knowledge that gives us a connection to the wine is more satisfying than mere flavor. Connection takes a pleasurable beverage and makes it an occasion, an intellectually stimulating experience and a part of culture.