Friday, January 4, 2013

seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees

for at least two years, i've been asking for dry drinks and dry wines, drinks with low or no sugar. sometimes i enjoyed them, other times it was an exercise in cognitive dissonance and unrelenting austerity.

the watershed moment was opening a 2009 clos habert (a demi-sec montlouis-sur-loire chenin blanc from chidaine) a year ago. it was balanced, precise, vinous, sappy, tender, aromatic, pure. all those good things. distinctly sweet but also richly acid, and richly acid because of the balancing sugar. not long after, i experienced some revelations of unexpected balance. and then a gradual awareness that the oxidative wines i favour are those that achieve balance by combining rich, sweet, nut aromas with total dryness and a hint of salinity: manzanilla sherry, vin jaune. balance, not sugar, is the key: a drink can be bone-dry and delicious (probably with slightly lower acid), or off-dry and delicious (sugar balanced with brilliant acidity, or tannins, or salt).

terry theise is a long-time advocate of residual sugar in wine when it makes sense and, in the realm of mixed drinks, so has senior beverage advisor jake parrott. i should listen more.
When we’re starting out we often ask “How much flavor does this have; that way I’ll know how much I like it (or how many points I’m supposed to give it),” but as we gain more experience we start asking “How beautiful does this taste, how fine, how haunting?” And when we finally learn to relax with wine we barely think abstractly about it at all; we just know when our bodies and senses transmit the joy-signal.
(btw: seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees)

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