While reading Alder Yarrow’s recent post on Croatian wines at Vinography the other day, I had a bit of an “ah-hah!” moment. It had nothing to do with the part about Croatian wine. Rather, it was in response to his (re)iteration of the standardized format he uses when writing wine names. Though his logic doesn’t match mine, his post made me realize that I’d never explained my own standardization protocol and told you why I do it the way I do.
Here’s my format:
Place of origin (including cuvée and/or vineyard name and/or grape variety, as applicable) – Estate/Producer – Vintage
It’s a style that lends itself most readily to the widespread practice in Europe of naming a wine after its place of origin. For instance, here’s an example of a wine that I wrote up recently: Vouvray “Cuvée de Silex,” Domaine des Aubisières (Bernard Fouquet) 2007.
Things can get a bit awkward when applying the same structure to wines from the New World, as a wine that many people might refer to simply as “1999 Caymus Special Selection,” for instance, would become: Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon “Special Selection,” Caymus Vineyards 1999. I admit it doesn’t roll off the tongue in quite as easy a fashion. But it works for me.
Wine names written in this manner, even though they may appear to include an awful lot of information, really present only three basic elements: place, person and time. This construct is meant to convey, in all cases, three points that I feel very strongly about.
- Place of origin is – or at least should be, in my view – the single most important factor in determining the overall character of wine.
- It’s the person or people making the wine that nurture the wine – from vineyard to cellar – and allow it to express its place of origin as they interpret it. I like to think of the winemaker as a servant to his or her vineyards, as less important than the place but more important than the vintage in determining the overall quality of any given wine.
- Vintage is very important in the context of any single wine. All things in parts one and two being consistent, it’s the qualities of a given growing year, and the human decisions based around the vagaries of that year, that make that wine different from year to year. Vintage becomes important to understanding wine, however, only after an understanding of the wine’s place and people have already been formed.
This is obviously a big topic, one that’s open to a wide range of viewpoints. While I could go into much greater detail, I’d rather stop here, encourage questions, feedback, commentary, criticism – even outright bashing – and see where the discussion leads.