Laced with emotion is best
Dry River has the good fortune of strong support amongst the wine press and trade. As a celebration of our 30th vintage we have asked one of our friends in the industry to pen a piece relating to Dry River in some way.
Our first contributor is one of New Zealand’s most prolific writers, Keith Stewart. Keith writes widely on subjects including agriculture, architecture and art. Well known for his strong opinions and fearlessness of establishment, Keith is never far away from controversy
Invariably the story that comes with wine, especially in the New World, is one that is neatly aligned with the idea that wine is made. So that wine stories spun for us drinkers are of viniculture: of climate data, soil structures, Vitis vinifera cultivars, pruning philosophies, picking dates, ripeness, fermentation temperatures, must weights, residual sugars, extract and time in barrel. And that is before we get the wine to our lips. As to barrels, there is also a subtext of species of oak used, forest in which the tree grew, barrel making technique, whether the container is new or used, and how long the wine spends in the barrel before it is deemed worthy of being called a finished product. And after all the technology woven into the previously mentioned data, there is also a hearty measure of romance included, of the family who grows the grapes, the hand harvesting of each crop and the ambient originality of the specific geography in which the grapes grew to maturity. It comes to the point where the thirsty, waiting for their first glass, can be excused for doubting whether anything could taste as good as the wine which they have been encouraged
to believe is some miraculous creation that will assert humanity’s elevated place in the universe. Except in most cases all you get is a glass of wine. Usually wine is intrinsically a pleasant experience, whatever the vagaries of critical analysis may have condemned it to. Three star, four star, ninety five, one hundred, more gratuitous statistics to add to the data already provided by a sleek public relations team intent on convincing said drinker that they have made, or, even more important, will make, the right choice. But are we missing the point with all this. When asked what, in my opinion, is the best Champagne in the world, I have been known to reference whichever brand happened to be the one chosen on the occasion shortly before, or after, falling in love. Whatever critics might venture, after the fact, of that particular wine’s finesse, autolysis character or fine bead is of no value when compared to the memory of the particular occasion when the world moved for the drinkers involved. As to quality, that elusive character that is attributed to wines on occasion, it is as irrelevant in this particular case as is the music that same couple associate with the flush of their romance. Which one of us, fondly recalling the bars of a popular tune that once ‘meant’ something, on closer consideration and with the advantage of maturity is forced to conclude that it no longer sounds as fine as it once did. Wine’s like that. The most memorable glass can be underwhelming when revisited years later, whilst a scrawny Chardonnay once dismissed to the back of the cellar after revealing its sour side can appear magically resonant when recovered in time. Metaphor aside, wine is just like music. Both are created to appeal to the sensory susceptibilities of humans, by humans, and the only accurate critique of them should be made in the context of the human experience of drinking wine. In this it is not how wine is made, but how it is drunk that matters most. Drunk with respect and attention to its finest points will always deliver a more satisfying sensory experience, even if the wine is less than grand. And if it is grand, such attention creates an event like a live concert with artists at the peak of their performance, the concert hall as packed with emotion as it is with ears.