Friday, January 13, 2017

Jefford on Monday: Beyond best

The best isn’t interesting
Let me be clear: I don’t mean that great wine cannot offer sublime drinking pleasure. Of course it can, and if any of my one-percenter friends offer me a glass of Cheval Blanc or Musigny, I count myself fortunate and revel in the experience. I would love to be able to drink these wines at home, informally and thoughtfully, a few times a year.
Such wines tend to be tasted reverentially amid conservative surroundings, though; they are often (in my opinion) over-aged by their owners; and it requires no great intelligence, originality and tasting ability to single them out for praise, or lavish them with points. Because of their status, they are often accumulated and served en masse at ‘pinnacle events’ (grand, showy horizontals or verticals) where full, profound and leisurely appreciation and enjoyment of their qualities is impossible. In other words, tasting great wine can often be a pre-programmed, ritualised experience. It may be exquisite, but it isn’t necessarily interesting.
Whereas if you sit down with an old friend in a restaurant in Heraklion, and he suggests you try a bottle of Yiannis Economou’s 2006 Liatiko, and you discover that it looks and tastes like some kind of kinky, low-acid cousin of Barolo, and its aromatic sweetness (sniffed amid the restaurant scents of burnt sage and grilled octopus) makes you think for some reason of Byzantium, and its savoury qualities and lush tannins bond perfectly with the roast goat and bitter foraged wild greens which the Egyptian-Filipino waitress has just brought you … well, all of that is interesting. In twenty years, I may well be dead. I want as much interest as possible in my tasting life before I die.