Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

My new favourite word to describe wine is ‘evocative,’ it’s just so. . . evocative. It’s all very well describing wines in terms of animals, vegetables or minerals but these never convey emotion. Evocative is so much better. I had a couple of contrasting Burgundies that evoked wildly different comparisons: Chambolle-Musigny (a 1er Cru ‘Feuselottes’ 2006 from Georges Mugneret) that was like the most beautiful melody heard almost out of earshot, something light but not fluffy, Mozart perhaps, & then afterwards a deep, dark Volnay (a 1er Cru ‘Clos des Chenes’ 1998 from Lafarge) that was Wagner. Volnay was the earth, the Chambolle was the sky.

Evocative was a word that I used again and again in my tasting notes from both ‘natural wine‘ fairs. On a couple of occasions, I had wines that transported me to where they were made. It wasn’t a case of sniff and I think I can smell cherries but actually imagine myself in Sicily or Croatia. Uncanny, and why I love wine so much. The ability to taste a patch of land in a glass.

SP 68 Bianco, Ariana Occhipinti, 2011

This one reminded me of falling in love on a hot day with the scents of a Sicilian summer in my nostrils. There’s a passage in The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa where the Prince goes out into the garden of his villa outside Palermo and is almost overwhelmed by the fecund scents of the flower. This is a bit like that only a little less opulent. After such a symphony of smells the restrained, dry, spicy taste with a touch of tannin is a welcome surprise.

Sveti Kakov, Giorgio Clai, Krasica 2010, Croatia

All the wines from the producer were superb. This particular white that evokes summer, but a more distant one. Perhaps a half-rememebeed sunny day from my childhood. A literary comparison would be from Coming Up For Air where Orwell evokes the endless summers of his hero’s boyhood:

‘It always seems to be summer when I look back. I can feel the grass round me as tall as myself, and the heat coming out of the earth. And the dust in the lane, and the warm greeny light coming through the hazel boughs.’

Kurucver 2007, Badacsony, Csobanci Bormanufaktura

This red is early autumn at my grandmother’s house near Aberdeen. There are brambles in the hedgerows, perhaps the odd wild raspberry and the damp smell of the woods. This wine is from Hungary and my grandmother was born in what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire and is now Slovenia. Despite living most of her life in Scotland, she always spoke English with a thick German accent. It’s delicious, robust yet refreshing, with great depth of flavour. If I had a restaurant, I would want this as my house wine.*

I have no idea how much these wines cost, what grape varieties they were made from or how they were made. I don’t think the Hungarian one is even available in Britain. Sometimes wine doesn’t have to be complicated, it can be as simple as giving into your senses and see where they take you.

I do realise that this article appears to contradict my earlier post where I said that the ‘natural wine’ fairs were really about France reasserting control over the wine world as none of the wines above are French. 

* Since I wrote this article I have decided to import a few cases of this wine so this is no longer a disinterested review. I wrote it before I contacted the producer but who’s to say that my words were not influenced by a subconscious intention.

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About Henry

Henry Jeffreys was born in London. He has worked in the wine trade, publishing and is now a freelance journalist. He specialises in drink and his work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. He was a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury 2013) and his book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass was published in November 2016.
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4 Responses to Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

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