Musings of a grumpy winemaker – November newsletter

Its true to say that neither wine sales nor brand development are well served by ambiguity. But I’m conflicted – almost bipolar – on a few issues. Let me explain.

Firstly, sparkling wine. The great oenological money pit. I love bubbles, love the detail and intricacy of the process. I love the alchemy of bottle age, and the slow anticipation of waiting to see how it turns out. I love the complexity in the glass and I love the sense of occasion. And so I’m truly delighted to release this 2010 Circe Blanc de blancs.

Problem is that its very expensive to make, and no matter how good it is, people will comment that it’s not Champagne. We have a cultural cringe issue in Australia when it comes to sparkling wine. We seem to adore all things European as “cultured”, and cannot see the culture in Australia before our very eyes.

So I’m hoping to be proved wrong – maybe this 2010 Blanc de blancs release will be a huge success. Fingers crossed. Early indications are great – the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld have it on by the glass already.

Secondly, the conundrum of Wine Shows and wine critics’ scores. On one hand, I love a competition, and I support Wine Shows by judging around the country. But increasingly I’m torn apart by the problem of objectivity in matters of taste. Max Allen tweeted recently “Death to the scores” and in many ways I agree. It seems impossible – and unnecessary – to have a ranking, or a score out of 100. There simply no right or wrong since wine tasting is intrinsically subjective.

It’s a little like having a perfume competition. Sterile assessment by so-called experts judging the aromas completely out of context. This completely betrays the importance of context, the personal interaction between skin and volatiles, the setting and occasion. To this day, the smell of Coco Chanel sweeps me back to being six years old and my Mum going out for the evening.

Wines can be similarly contextual. Even Pinot grigio tastes great in that small piazza in Venice, along with the ambient smells, the linguine, the foul cigarettes from the table next door.

If I think of the greatest wines I have had – Romanee Conti, or Krug, or Mouton Rothschild, for example, the experience is sensorial and emotional, uplifting, exhilarating. Their description becomes quickly emotional, embedded in the metaphorical and romantic language which makes a nonsense of a point score. (Brave are those great American ciritcs who try.) Great wines have even more personality, more evocative elements, that to describe them in a few words and with a point completely misses the, um, point.

I’d like to think that in the next twenty or so years, we can steer Circe in the direction of great wine. That’s the intention.

Meantime, we have a gold medal from the Royal Melbourne Wine Awards. Hoorah! Endorsement!

See why I’m so conflicted?

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