The flavor of history

As I type this, I’m putting the final touches on a wine class I’ll be teaching tonight called “The Founding Families of Oregon Pinot Noir.”

Doing the research and outlining the class has brought up a bit of a philosophical question: in wine, does history really matter?

This might sound like a dumb question because of course it does. We know that. But here is why I bring it up.

In 2012 I was in a bus on a wine junket (aka a wine death march) through northern and central Italy with a famous wine importer. Our agenda was packed, three to four wineries a day and each being in a different region. On this particular moment we just finished two wineries in Piedmont and were on our way to a historic estate in Tuscany. One that I had been to twice before, and I couldn’t wait to return and see the old cellars and walk the old property. I made my excitement clear to the group, which was still burning off the impact of a full day of drinking Barolo. I talked about the cellars, the family, the old history, the impact of Napoleon, and more.

Finally, a young (24 years old) freshly minted sommelier put his hand up. Maybe it was the wine talking, I don’t know. But what he said was something else: “Dude, shut up … all that really matters is the juice in the bottle. That’s why you need to taste everything blind.”

Think about that. Here’s somebody in charge of a $15 million wine program for a major Las Vegas resort. For him, history didn’t matter. For him, it was all about his magical ability to taste detail and nuance that us mortals supposedly didn’t possess. For him, he hindered his own growth by only tasting blind, by only having ‘the juice in the bottle’ be the determining factor.

Of course quality matters. In some ways it should always come first. But what about story, connection, lore, evolution, history, and legacy? Those, in many ways, are flavors too.

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