The Greatest Wine Story Ever Told (isn’t always about the greatest wine…)

For the second time, I had the chance to take part in a collective feature published on Spotlight Toronto. After Ontario’s best rieslings, it was time for all participants to tell everyone their greatest wine story.

Old labels from Spanish table wine Rocamar. The top label is the actual one on which I found out I knew how to read. Many thanks to Bodegas Joan Sarda for supplying the image.

In some cases, that means a great bottle, one of the world’s best. But in most cases, it meant a meaningful bottle – in my case, for instance, the bottle on which I realized that I had learned to read, when I wasn’t even 5. Gee, I wonder how I made my way to blogging about wine…

Anyhow, the great bunch of writers, winemakers and other wine professionals who took part (including Norm Hardie, Konrad Ejbich, Monique Beech, Steven Campbell, Rick Van Sickle and Heidi Fielding) largely pointed to a bottle that was particularly memorable because of context: being in a great place (that first trip to Paris) with great people (a bunch of friends together at a restaurant), a great recipe (Konrad Ejbich’s coq-au-vin) or even a connection to the way one’s business has developed.

It was great fun for me to ponder that, and as I read the story and exchanged e-mails with a good friend mentioned in my chapter, I started thinking about another aspect of what we had just put together.

As wine writers and wine professionals, we generally think of blind tasting as the gold standard for evaluating just how good a bottle actually is, as objectively as posssible. Through this technical approach, we seek to identify which bottle is the greatest and why.

Yet when you ask people about the best wines they had, it is very often – if not always – a story laden with context. What made the bottle extra special was the place, the people, the moment. We derive increased pleasure from drinking in good circumstances.

It’s an interesting paradox about the way we write about wine, and the way we enjoy it. Let’s ponder that the next time we open a great bottle. And drink it among friends.

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  1. sd
    Posted April 13, 2010 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    What a great point, that oftentimes its more about the moment than the wine. We can all get technical but maybe its not always about that? The best is so subjective, and these stories are a reminder right? sort of? :)

    • Posted April 13, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

      The technical aspects counts, at least in analyzing why one wine may be higher-quality than another. But even there, subjectivity abounds. So yeah, I think good wine and a great moment will be better, overall, than a sip-and-spit of awesome wine in a technical tasting.

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