There are a lot of well-dressed men in the UK wine trade. The old-fashioned UK wine trade I mean (last time I saw Boy Wonder he was wearing flip-flops). There is a fair bit of private income in the UK trade – a cynic would suggest chaps not clever enough for banking, not brave enough for the army – and these privately wealthy, occasionally titled, and indisputably posh chaps not only lean toward the red-trousered look, they tend to wear rather good suits. Tailored suits.
“Well-tailored” is a description that pops up in my tasting notes from time to time. “Bond Street” describes – for me at least – 2009 Cheval Blanc: bling, jewels and Louis Vuitton. More of a compliment is “Savile Row”, which is to say: impeccably cut and put together.
Wine comes from grapes, which come from vines, which grow out of the ground. The quality of the grapes depends on (a) soil and place; wot us wine ponces refer to as “terroir”, (b) sunshine and rain: the weather in any given year and (c) gardening: how well the vines are looked after by their guardian. Two out of three of these can make for a winner: brilliant terroir and a good vintage can overcome lazy viticulture. Assiduous work in the vineyard and brilliant terroir can overcome a difficult vintage. This, in short, is the cloth. Then comes the tailoring.
Which isn’t about extraction or boldness. And there’s little point in tirelessly tailoring poor cloth. Tailoring is about fit, about style, about finesse: the finish.
The thought, the description, came to me from Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle (Mr Artadi). Now that’s a well tailored name for a start (and actually I think it’s even longer). JCLdC is a bit of a salesman, and was describing his 2008s, which he thought were unostentatious and impeccably correct. He thought of a typical – or what was typical – St James’s Street gentleman. Nothing flash about the suit, the shirt, the tie. But all from an impeccable tailor, and all fitting perfectly. I know a few gents like this and it clicked. I am ashamed to admit that my notes on the Artadi 2008s, or at least the posh ones (wines, not notes), are long lost. After many years of waiting to be properly recorded they gave up and offed. But I can still remember the wines, and the style…
And the style of the wines hung well on them. We can’t all carry a suit in the same way. Vinous analogy: taste one of those super-manufactured Chilean Pinots that are just covered in flashy, toasty oak, and it’s all about the winemaking and very little about what’s underneath. It’s about balance. Not just balance between tannin and fruit and alcohol and acidity, but balance of character.
If none of this makes sense, this sums up what I’m trying to say: