Monday, March 22, 2010

Throwing a Changeup

Sometimes I wish I didn't know.

Tasting Vincent Ricard's most recent release (summer/fall 2009) of "Le Vinsans Ricard" a few days back, I would have guessed — and it took me a while to put my finger on the flavor and aroma signatures — that it was produced from Romorantin. I wasn't tasting blind, so that guess would have been made in full knowledge that the wine comes from the Loire, from Thésée in particular, not far from Cour-Cheverny. Romorantin country. The Monaco of Loire vine footprints.

What I do know is that this batch of naturally pétillant "Vinsans" was produced from Sauvignon Blanc. I sell the wine (when it's available) in the course of my day job, where it's part and parcel of my work to know such things. Anyone could find out that it's Sauvignon, as Ricard tells us so in succinct fashion on his website. But Vincent chooses to make no mention of the vine on the wine's label. He easily could, as it is not an AOC-designated wine, just a humble "Vin de Table Mousseux;" but again, he doesn't. I kind of like it that way. It keeps the focus on the wine, not the grape. It lets what's in the bottle speak for itself.

The previous release of "Vinsans," circa summer 2008.

If you rewind to a year earlier, you'll find that notion reinforced by the fact that the previous couple of releases of "Vinsans" — the first two ever if I'm not mistaken — were produced from Gamay. Gamay with traditional maceration on the skins, so we're talking about what was previously a sparkling red wine. Again, there was no mention of variety on the label. In fact, the only labeling changes from batch-to-batch were minor typographical and layout adjustments.

The change proved tricky from a retailer's perspective, as shoppers who'd fallen in love with the red, Gamay-based version and were excited to see the wine back on the shelves had to be alerted to the fact that the wine was now white, was now Sauvignon. Without holding the bottle up to the light, there would have been no way for them to see the difference. Why warn them? Why does it matter? Expectation. I can only imagine how many of the bottles would have been returned, along with an "I thought this was supposed to be red...."

As a consumer in my own right, albeit one who spends a good deal more time than normal thinking about things like this, I like the unheralded shift. The surprise. The fact that it keeps the focus on what is in the bottle, not on what is supposed to be in the bottle.

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