The young waiter showing us the wines said that it was a South African Pinot Noir, but made in a typical Burgundian style, which is what sold it to me. Sometimes you want something strange and surprising, but sometimes it’s nice to be placed in the lap of a wine that is immediately, easily familiar. The comfort in that first inhale, the first taste. Ah, I’m going to like this.
Here, it was the bright earthiness of the scent, the garnet gleam in the glass, the faint hint of mushroom and forest floor on the tongue lifted by cherries and berries and acid, itself tempered by soft tannins. It was a wine that knew exactly what it wanted to be, its personal style settled and worn with a knowing smile. No surprises, nothing startling, just smooth and comfortable and delicious. I was asked what word I would use to describe it and after a long pause – (god forbid I think of something pedestrian) – I picked “loamy”, which is something I’ve only ever read in fantasy fiction of a certain brand; Tolkien or the Redwall books, but it seemed just right, if pretentious. Whether a true definition or not, loam seems to me… lighter and brighter than earth, implying a soil which has inhaled and trapped the nature of the forest above it; berries dripping from tangled bushes, streams winnowing over rocks, light dappling through the trees. Which led me to think of that opening line by Gerard Manley Hopkins:
glory be to god for dappled things / for skies a couple-colour as a brindled cow…
Which is completely beside the point and a journey away from where we started, but then isn’t that the point of wine – to take us away?