Resurgences of older techniques & materials throughout various phases of grape growing/winemaking are in surplus as of late. People are reverting back to clay & indigenous woods (palm, chestnut, etc.), longer skin macerations, reviving autochthonous grape varietals on the verge of extinction, and plenty more. The results are, if done correctly, captivating. In our ever-lusting thirst for purpose, experimentation, and melding modern with centuries-old tactics and methods, are there occurrences that take this quest too far?
I recently hit up Chicago toting Jill Mott Selections - a slew of wines from Asturias, Bierzo, and Segovia that certainly satisfied the windy city. While there, I met up with my crew; a band of folks who deeply care about provenance, history, process, and lore. When they taste wine, they go deep - I miss this interaction more than I can utter. Educational bottles were being cracked in earnest, but also with acute standards & meaning. A jolly fellow decided to lug a magnum from his cellar that bode the region Arbois. That's all I will mention for now. An indigenous grape was carefully fermented & aged in a vessel that is receiving accolades for its unbeknownst foresight when first crafted thousands of years ago. The clay this wine was reared in hailed from & was fired some 3,800 km away. This hasn't been the first instance of curiosity/study breeding an ambrosial delight and we all know that so many of the world's greatest wines are not born in even remotely local vessels.
I want to be very clear; I thought the wine was delightful to drink & tasting it decanted versus not decanted was a decent experiment to put it lightly. The native Arbois red grape in Georgian qvevri had an air of disingenuousness about it, certain pieces missing, or maybe it was speckled with false hopes. My crux was that the educational experiment was joyful but didn't seem truthful. Why did this matter? It bothered me the entire flight home & it shouldn't have. The wine was pretty and fun to drink in the company of great comrades in life. Wines from the U.S. are aged in French oak all the time! People in France are aging wine in Spanish clay and in some cases, this clay was dug of Chinese soil and fired in Spain!
I guess I just pondered this Arbois' potential in wood grown in close proximity to its spiritual home; Neuchatel or Vosges oak perhaps. Something seemed all too commercially exploited about an intrinsic, isolated place such as Georgia (that I already fear will succumb to capitalistic bait) shipping a 1,000L vessel across Europe. Clay feels so alive, historic, rustic, and humble. This experiment felt like a well-read peasant knowing the nobility is trying to blow a fast one by her.
End all be all, the wine was nothing short of delicious but supplied a lack of spiritual authenticity.