Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Wine Flaws

  It’s so much easier conversing with the internationally good-looking people of Miami Beach. It's like you don’t even need to introduce yourself, you can just tell right away these are deep, interesting people and you are going to hit it off perfectly. In contrast, in rural cultures -such as mine up there in the mountains of New York -it’s always a total surprise when you meet someone of interest. You just wouldn't expect it by looking them!
  Every winter I go down to Miami so that I can relate to people without all those flaws in the way- Big noses, love-handles, crooked teeth and splotchy skin… how is anyone supposed to get to know you? What a relief it is to be in Miami where the men are all sculpted as if by Michelangelo and the women seem painted by Botticelli (except with larger breasts, of course- they didn't have the science in 15th century Florence to correct boob size.)
  Miamians know perfection takes a lot of effort, but it’s worth it.
  Perfect people, by definition, don’t have flaws. They don’t have barriers hanging-out, preventing us from digging deeper, blocking us from getting to know the person. I mean seriously, why can’t everyone else just do the necessary work? Maybe it’s because rural people still believe in God and not science? (I don't know, just guess.) Everyone knows that science has made this planet a lot healthier than it's ever been! Or maybe it’s just because rural people don’t have the money to be perfect? I don't know, I can't relate. But whatever their hangups are, I hope they evolve soon because let me tell you: this is one ugly planet! How are we to get to know one another with all these flaws in the way?!?!
   I wrote this bit of satire after a conversation about ‘wine flaws’ with a notable cider/ wine buyer. Her take on the subject is that flaws are inherently distracting. She sorts through a drink (like my East Branch, which she was specifically commenting on, but the waxing broader) as an auditor or inspector would: taking inventory of the notes, rather than experiencing them as the flow in an overall story. My argument, or defense to flaws, is that if the apples have deep and positive character then the flaws can even enhance the experience and make the cider more human. (It should be noted that this buyer is also well versed on Western European ciders, naturally fermented ciders like in Normandy or Somerset, where "clean" cider doesn't even exist.) So to hear criticism of earthy or farmy notes confuses me. I see those qualities as layers in a complex orchestra.

  But let's be clear, we are not talking about overwhelming flaws, or purposely introduced yeast traits. Objectionable issues or contrived yeast styles do stick out like soar thumbs, and yes, they are a distraction from the apple (but in most poorly based ciders (as are most American ciders) that distraction is welcome.) No, what we are talking about in this essay are those faint farmy and earthy notes that you get in any high quality British or French cider, keeved or dry. These notes can also be briney, oaky, or even meaty but they are faint, peripheral and strangely complimentary to the mystery and message of the apple. How is that a flaw?

 Oh, I wish I could write more on this subject! There is so much about the American obsession with perfection and there is so much to our fear of flaws (and are they the same thing?) that I could write for months. For instance, I'm sure our need to conquer flaws in wine is completely related to monocultural farming, personal hygiene, and our national approach to human health! Ah, but the subject is too huge to take on in the middle of the pressing season. Perhaps this winter…