To Know a Wine, Try a Little Tenderness

When drinking fine wine, we tend to focus on the intensity and complexity of aromas, the lushness of the texture, how refined the tannins feel, and the length of the finish.  But, thanks to modern wine technology, most of the wine you buy above the $20 price point will have intense aromas and a plush, refined mouthfeel. Lost in our pursuit of power and luxury are more subtle features that are difficult to pin down or describe.

Great wines, even those that are powerful and impress with their size and weight have a gentle, inner beauty that emerges from nuance and subtlety. They have complexity but it’s not doled out all at once and can be sensed only by carefully observing a wine’s motion.”Finesse” is what we usually call it, and many of those industrial wines that seem of high quality don’t have it.

But to discover these dimensions of a wine you have to allow the wine to take control, giving the wine a chance to direct your attention. Like two dancers in sympathetic motion, taster and tastant melt together becoming one, as if we sense in the wine an offering, a generosity that too much aggression or impatience will destroy. Gracefulness really is a form of grace.

Discovering these dimensions of a wine takes time. A cursory tasting, a need to move on to the next flight,  and a calculative frame of mind that attempts to add up a score will not allow them to emerge.

If something hits you over the head, it isn’t nuance. If it screams it isn’t tenderness.

Wine and, according to Otis Redding, young girls share this need for tenderness.

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