Let it be...

by Richard Harvey

Not a celebration of the (too-often) repeated Beatles song, but rather a statement of a reality.

Drew Noon of McLaren Vale, Australia, says it best when he unapologetically states “I make wine in a warm climate; I make big wines.” What he suggests as “big” are somewhat reflective of a classic Australian red wine. These attributes of ripe, plump body, rich berry flavours and sometimes considerable alcohol have become the subject of mockery by many (including myself - guilty as charged).

But I do fail to explain myself properly, as well as do justice to Mr. Noon. I like balanced wines. “Balanced” is an otherwise straightforward English word that any child on a teeter-totter knows means that harmony has been found. There are big AND balanced wines. Mr. Noon makes wines that are muscular and full, but not in the exaggerated way of a competition body-builder. These are more like the muscles developed by hard manual labour, the type of tasks not common in our information-driven, mercantile and mechanical age. Drew’s wines are fit and yet muscular, but not a parody of sculpted, exaggerated “fitness”. “Fleshy” is not a dirty word.

I have often sung the praises of elegant, light-bodied and fresh wines, and will continue to do so. But I will also staunchly defend a balanced wine (again, red or white) that is big, bold and speaks frankly of its origins and composition. There’s many a cold Calgary night where the well-integrated (balanced) richness of texture and body (even with a slightly higher level of alcohol) makes for a wine of substance and comfort. The ABV (alcohol by volume) is not the key here. James Thurber is quoted as saying “Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker”, and if you need a fast track to alcohol induced warmth, the Russians have it figured out in shots of vodka. I’m speaking of the sense and smell of warm climates, ripe fruits, herb-scented shrubbery (garrigue, maquis, fynbos…) and a sapidity that transports you to balmy moments spent in a pleasurable environment, exterior and interior.

Let it be…a wine MUST reflect grape, climate and origins if it is to avoid being some boring repetition of what I’m told I should no longer call “commercial” or “industrial” wines (even though their number is legion). Is 2014 different from the same wine in its 2015 iteration? As it should be! Is this interpretation of (insert any grape variety here) the SAME as another? Thankfully, NO! Let it be itself, let it be real, authentic wine that is an individual, even if you don’t want to marry it or even have lunch with it.

Big ain’t necessarily better but there’s a glorious, diverse world out there for all of our equally diverse palates, moments, foods and moods.