The wine world is an interesting amalgam of small but meaningful variations within a context of relative stability. Most major wine styles are embedded in traditions that go back hundreds of years and are still vibrant today. The weather is an agent of change as is the genetic instability of grapes. New varietals are continually introduced,new wine regions emerge, and new technologies and methods are developed, but these are minor deviations from a core concept that seems immune to radical change. There are, after all, only so many ways to ferment grape juice. Red and white still wine, sparkling wine, and fortified wine have been around for centuries and are still the main wine styles on offer. Every wine we drink is a minor modification on those major themes.
And so as wine lovers we revel in nuance. We find minute shifts in aromatic expression worthy of deep thought. A slight zing of extra acidity or an elegant softening of hard tannins is worth hundreds of dollars. We debate whether an increase of .5% alcohol has thrown a wine completely out of balance. In no other dimension of life is so much made of so little.
Perhaps that is part of wine’s appeal. Wine is not loud, not extreme, not intrusive or monumental. It is demanding but inconsequential. A very peculiar pursuit.