Three Questions: Wine, Woman and Song

Vinolent was born in 2009.  I didn’t really know what I was doing; I just had a chip on my shoulder and a lot to get off my chest (in that respect it has failed: I still have both).  In 2010 vinolent started to get a small following and I also discovered Wine Woman & Song.

The practical side of blogging is a walk in the park.  Fifteen minutes on wordpress or blogger and you’ve got your own printing press (Martin Luther is either spinning at a million rpm or, more likely, looking down with unpriceable happiness).  Anyone can do this, and millions do, for the same reason as me, which is essentially chippiness.  As such, of the billions of words written in this sphere, very few of them are any good.  But the good ones do stand out.

One of the good ones (and there are just a few) is Juel Mahoney’s Wine Woman & Song.  I thank her for her answers, the quality of which make any introduction redundant:

1) What was the first wine/bottle that got you into the whole wine thing?

As a teenager in Australia, many of my friends’ parents had some sort of relation to a winery, either directly or as an investment or hobby vineyard. A winemaker from the Hunter Valley would bring interesting European bottles over for lunch on the weekends, like Bonneau du Martray Corton-Charlemagne or German Rieslings, alongside the local Chardonnay and the adults would compare and discuss. I have to admit, a few great wines were wasted on this insolent teenager. Most of the time I just sat there longing for my own adventures and wondering when I could see these places for myself.

All this helped later when I needed a part-time job at university. I responded to an advertisement: “Are you a creative person who wants flexible hours and likes wine?” Yes! Everybody who started at this company did the same three weeks of wine education taught by a no-nonsense ex-nurse who had also studied at Roseworthy (the winemaker’s college in Adelaide), which meant she knew all the winemakers personally and, like a lot of Australian nurses, peppered her lessons with stories of wild drunken nights disguised as cautionary tales. The wine that got me into the “whole wine thing” was from one of these classes: Rosemount Jigsaw Shiraz Grenache Mataro. It caused a domino to fall, leading to a whole crash of questions: What is Mataro? It is the same as Mouvedre. Why do they have a different name in Europe to Australia and California? Where is the Rhone? How does each grape contribute to the taste? The idea of a “blend” was fascinating and exotic (!). After the class, I took the remainder of the bottle home to share with my friends and we discussed it into the night and got drunk on the possibilities.  And that was that.

2) What was the first wine/bottle that took you closer to your maker?

If you mean closer to your Maker, rather than winemaker, then I certainly have had wines that make you wonder if they were made by advanced life forms on other planets.

Most wines are happy to stick to the basic matrix of flavours on Earth. If I say “strawberry” then most people have an idea what I mean. But there are some wines where the normal descriptions of fruit and oak do not apply. That is when wine is in the realm of science fiction. For me, Grand Cru German Riesling is like that: it slips and slides through flavours leaving you with notes that look more like abstract poetry. The senses grapple with the new. The last wine I had like this was Domaine Tollot-Beaut Beaune 1er Cru Greve 1985. It was like it hailed from another planet with a different gravity: heavy incense, granite candy floss, animals with blueberry coats. It was still very vibrant and energetic. Incredible. And afterwards, the senses are changed forever. That’s when wine becomes a spiritual experience. You feel changed as a person.

3) What was the best wine/bottle you have had this year? – OK, the past twelve months.

I want to say the Passopiciaro bianco in the fish markets in Catania after having climbed Mount Etna. Or the magnum of 1951 La Tache that was brought to a dinner at the 11th hour from a kind gentleman who was late for dinner and opened the bottle for us anyway. But part of the enjoyment of those wines was the circumstances around the wine rather than just the wine itself. So it has to be the Giovannini Moresco Barbaresco 1974 (alongside 1970 and 1979, thanks to Eric Sabourin at Falcon Vintners). Unfortunately, the man and his winery no longer exist and the vineyards are now owned by the Gaja family to be used for their Sito Moresco (meaning “Moresco’s site”). Like a sexy man’s cologne, all leather, fur and tobacco with absolutely no fruit – as if fruit was a frivolous extra for something as classic and pure and smooth as a man’s tuxedo. It is my best bottle of the year because it has motivated me to explore 1970s Piedmont, so that makes it more than just a wine for me: it is a turning point.

Thank you again.

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