Wine 201: Going Deep

Guest columnist Peter with his girlfriend, Juliette

Guest Post from Jeff’s Son, Peter, in Dijon France
Hi everyone, Jeff’s son Peter here stepping in with a guest column today! This post may or may not have been written as a friendly challenge to my dad, but I do hope it can be useful to others as well.

(click on any photo below for full size slideshow)

Place – First and Foremost
‘Place’ – it’s darn near close to being all we really want to see in a wine. There’s no shortage of examples: Chablis tastes just so because it’s a cold, limestone infused place where chardonnay is at the limit of its ability to ripen, while the amphitheater of heat that is Bandol allows Mourvèdre to reach heights beyond its status as a tannic mixing grape in close by Chateauneuf. Developing these entry-level understandings of the world’s wine producing regions is generally the first step on the path to wine appreciation.

But what do you do once you know the basics? While there’s certainly no problem in continuing to jump around, enjoying wines from Barolo to Barossa, I’d propose an alternative: picking a place and going deeper.

What’s Your “Go Deep” Region?
Let’s do a thought experiment. Think about a wine region that you love. Now check the following boxes if it applies to your relationship with that region:

  • You know its climate
  • You have tasted multiple of its larger qualitative producers
  • You’ve tasted a wine or two from the top top producer in town
  • You know the main axis on which to judge its wines, be it new oak v. old, machine harvesting v. by hand, flatland vineyards v. terraces…
  • You have visited, getting to see the lay of the land for yourself.

I’d hazard a guess that you’ve checked 3-5 of these boxes, and I have no qualms with stopping there. The only thing is: there’s further that we can go!

Do you know the producers that lie an echelon down from the top names, the ones who are making thoughtful, stylized wine out the limelight? Do you know who makes the kickass wines from the less celebrated grapes like Aligoté in Burgundy or Dolcetto in the Piedmont? What does a zero sulfur bottling look like from your region, and do you like it? Going the extra step means getting the pleasure of investigating these questions for yourself.

There are two great reasons to take this next step.

1) You get to drink more wine that you love!

2) You get to share your new understanding with others.

And that’s what it’s all about. Wine is an odd interest in that it’s not an easy thing to do together. Yes we can open bottles, blind taste, and blabber annoyingly to our less interested friends/spouses/pet guinea pigs, but these pale in comparison to being able to take someone’s hand and to be their guide on the path to new understanding. There’s no guarantee that they’ll catch the bug but I bet they’ll enjoy the ride.

So here’s my prescription – pick a region whose wines you love and take the next step. Here are a few threads for you to pull:

  • What are the important spectrums on which the wines of your region lie? There is generally one that’s obvious and many that are lesser known. In Burgundy, for example, new oak use represents the first level of understanding, while whole cluster inclusion & vineyard altitudes are the deeper cuts.
  • What style do the top producers represent? What vineyard and vinification work do they employ to achieve their goals? Which high quality domaines of lesser renown follow in their footsteps, and which strike out to create something new?
  • What are your region’s satellite appellations, and which warrant more respect? Who’s making the absolute best entry-level cuvee in the region? What’s the consistently top value wine? Alternatively, which top (i.e. $$$$) wines are worth the occasional splurge?
  • Describe the past five vintages to be released – which are for drinking now and which are to hold? If you see five vintages of the same wine available on a list which do you order?
  • Who are the organic and biodynamic wine producers around town? Are there natural wine producers, and how do they differ from the classic conception of the region’s wines? Do you want to drink them?

So go – Pickup up a book, subscribe to a specialist website, order some bottles online…do what you gotta do to go deeper. There’s richer appreciation and the ability to share with others waiting for, and I promise they are worth it. Who knows, maybe you’ll even be able to teach your son a thing or two one day!


3 Responses to “Wine 201: Going Deep”
  1. Lynda P Seasly says:

    Love this collaboration! Thanks Peter!

  2. Jill Barth says:

    Nice post, Peter. Love Aligoté from Domaine Chevrot, BTW.

    I love this advice: “What are your region’s satellite appellations, and which warrant more respect? Who’s making the absolute best entry-level cuvee in the region? What’s the consistently top value wine? Alternatively, which top (i.e. $$$$) wines are worth the occasional splurge?”

    Thanks to Jeff and Peter for more great reading and gorgeous photos!

  3. Nice job! And some great recommendations for both novices and experienced wine students.

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