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2008 Robert Groffier Bourgogne Rouge and the Awkwardness of Judging a Wine

June 9, 2011

Eric Asimov wrote a pretty weird column a little while ago. It was about how maybe you could sum up any wine using one of two words: sweet or savory. If anyone took him too seriously maybe they thought he was crazy but at the very least it easily made for a gratifying diversion through the mind. No matter how encompassing any two words might be they will never be able to describe the best wines out there, wines that go beyond boundaries that words cannot reach. Maybe we wax and wane in our notes because there can can be no end to the description of wines that are worth writing about or maybe we overcompensate for our impotent vernacular, maybe both. Some shun elaborate description in lieu of a few words meant to give a general impression of the whole experience, after all many wines are simply so pure as to defy the multiplicity a tasting note might imply. Scant, unpretentious words may prove to be more than adequate to provoke exploration;  one of my friends once described Karmeliet Tripel as “like a rotten peach but in a good way”  and I couldn’t help but think how great that was before someone else in the room said “wait can I get a sip of that?”

Blueberry, blood orange, arugula, duck. Would that inspire a try in most? Quite possibly but I’m not really sure.

Ever think about colors when you taste a wine? Red, magenta, black. Magenta’s cousin’s friend, orangey blood, and her boyfriend carmelized moss. Wisps of lilac and streaks of slate dancing on sheer sky.  When you get done with the colors, dimensions and composition tumble together as if gravity depended on each sip and not the other way around. How easy to paint a wine in the mind, a picture unto the gullet, no others’ swallows can relate.

Or I could say: medium/light bright ruby red color.  Gorgeous aromas of flowers, pine needles and red berries. Faint hints of oak meld with the Pinot varietal character to make a smell like sauteed mushroom. There is also some spice in the background that seems to amplify the floral aromas. In the mouth the acid is high minus and tannin is medium minus, the fruit is very apparent but quite tart along a patchy spectrum of ruby red grapefruit to wee huckleberry and I wonder how it will integrate and fade over time. The floral and savory elements from the nose are present but not intense enough to compete with the fruit/acid complex that dominates the refreshing, straightforward finish.  Give it a few to 5 years, tops, because the nose hints at faint tertiary notes already; but who knows maybe the fruit will still compete with the acidity in 2018 to make a more smooth and complex wine.

I would definitely describe the wine mentioned in the title as a good ordinary wine, nothing you couldn’t hope to compete with in many other Pinot Noir regions. If in the realm of ordinary wines you could have balanced wines or complex wines (because a wine with parts equally balanced and complex wine would no doubt be extraordinary) this wine would be complex. The nose is great (as in so many other 08 Burgundies) but things get a little out of whack on the palate. Overall though the flavors can’t keep it together to balance out the  acidity that makes me brace for a finish that is suddenly ok after all; it’s a little messy but keeps me guessing and it goes down easy even on glass number 3. A sessionable wine? I doubt it.

If you wanted to use another two words, besides balanced and complex, like sweet or savory, I’d have to say savory. That’s what is so wonderful about most ordinary wines is that you can peg them so easily, you want sweet? this ain’t for you. But it isn’t as simple as that all the time. Really good wines tend to have sweet and savory elements, even dessert wines. Most wine drinkers also don’t seem to know what they want half of the time and on different occasions want different things. I have this wonderful friend who has been drinking wine for a very long time but has little expertise. She likes all sorts of wine from sweet, oaky Chards to funky, tart reds. Every once in awhile she’d say to  “gimme something bloody, you know what I mean”. I couldn’t really say either way whether I did. I could probably count the number of wines that I can remember having smelled or tasted like blood on one hand, so really I was never able to give her something that I thought was truly bloody, but I caught her drift more often than not. Her relatively imprecise but quite developed taste for wine has always made me wonder about what makes anything taste good when it does.

Judging a drink is so fraught. Why do it but to prove something that proves there’s so little to prove. Maybe one relates on some level but the only real way to judge a drink is to relate it to appropriate channels, so glouglou my friends.

Oh yeah and buy Groffier’s wines, that is if you can find any and are in the mood to afford them.

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