Although deeply problematic, one of the most positively provocative aspects of Jonathan Nossiter’s book, Liquid Memory, is its questioning of the manner in which we talk about wine. I’ve half-written a post expanding on these thoughts, and who knows if I’ll ever finish it; I have, though, been more mindful since reading Mr Nossiter’s book of the part, however small, I play in privileging a particular sort of wine conversation, one that centres on descriptors and a particularly banal narrative of wine, over a more aesthetically inclined view, in which one puts one’s self and one’s reaction to a given wine above a purely descriptive story of tasting.
This wine prompts me to think of such things because there’s a schism between what I taste and how I feel. What I smell, first, is an incredibly clean wine with a range of aromas that is textbook with regard to how a cooler climate Chardonnay ought to taste. There’s clean citrus fruit, a hint of white peach and the sort of tasteful, just-savoury-enough winemaking artifact to trigger an appreciative reaction. This wine is, in its way, perfectly formed, and I have no wish to deny the achievement associated with it (goodness knows I’m an expert in the art of fucking up winemaking). Yet I’m unmoved by it, in the same way I might pass yet another cleanly executed minimalist interior without so much as a “wow.” What is, I wonder, the point of such lithe shapeliness? What is there for me to grab hold of and caress?
The palate is, again, beautifully executed. The oatmeal flavours are a real feature of the wine, taking quite severe fruit flavours and granting them dimension and texture. Balance is exceptional, as is shape and line. This really is a good wine, well-judged and full of inherent quality. It’s just that I’m desperate for something human and sensual, a flaw or outsize dimension to give me an aesthetic hook on which to hang my own sense of beauty. It’s as if I’m not good enough for this wine, that it doesn’t care especially if I like it or not. But, in a profound sense, I need a wine to need me back, otherwise there’s no dialogue, no reason to stick around and keep talking.
This wine deserves the deepest admiration for provoking such a reaction. A second date, however, is out of the question.