For the final tasting report of 2021, I offer you an immersion into the celestial Champagnes of Marc Hébrart. A couple wines were unavailable to me, but really, you can’t go wrong.
This tasting practice of mine was conceived as a stop-gap assuming it would be impossible or unwise to travel to Europe and taste with the growers. I assumed, as we all did, that things would have quieted down by 2022, but at this point with no tangible end in sight, the prudent course seems to still be – hunker down and stay safe until the worst of the danger is passed.
I’d also assumed the wines would scurry to me. “Man plans, god laughs.” 2021 has been a logistical horror as most of you know. I’m still waiting for wine. Multiple producers sent samples that have yet to be located. By the time this vintage is finished the next one will be ready to send. Which isn’t, as it happens, such a bad thing.
I’ll come back to that topic, but first let me tell you what’s in the pipeline. I’m mid way through tasting Von Winning, and that report will be ready by the first days of January. There’s also a report on Selbach-Oster and Merkelbach queued up to run onWorld Of Fine Wine’s website in early January (and on my own a few weeks later), and I have samples on hand from Champagne Moussé and from Weingut Goldatzel. I expect to receive wines from Dönnhoff, Müller-Catoir, Kruger-Rumpf, Nigl, Varnier-Fannière, and if they are ever found, Nikolaihof and Alzinger. I’m hoping that some of these reach me after the 1st. I also have articles ready to be written, prominent among them a survey of tasting protocols and methods from other tasters. Finally I am considering asking for samples from other importers, and the reason I’d do that is, I don’t know any other wine commentary equivalent to mine. That’s not a question of better or worse; it’s a matter of type.
When this started last April I had a vision of how it would look and what it would entail. But as the work progressed, I found it morphing. At first I was somewhat uneasy about the direction the wines seemed to be pulling me in, but later I felt a lot of relief, and a lot of happiness. It was entirely wonderful to have time to give the wines, and it was even sweeter not to have to write so as to “persuade” or to sell, but simply to narrate the pathways of engagement. It started to seem essayistic, discursive, even dare I say “literary.” Are those scare-quotes needed? I think not. Good wines tell stories, and these are difficult to hear when we’re busy-busy trying to suss all the associations and figure out how many “points” to “award” the wine, and finally to set about crafting a sales pitch. Trust me, it’s nice to be free of that stuff.
I sometimes feel exposed. My stuff works or doesn’t, based on whether it is interesting, engaging, and contributes to the literature of wine and adds to the ways of tasting. I’m probably like most writers, fumbling and struggling and walking away when I reach the limit of how I might improve a piece. Usually it works out; I’m proud of a number of these pieces. Sometimes you read the work and sigh….it could have been improved, by some writer other than I. The good thing is the wines give me a through-line, a spinal column on which to structure a piece. Nearly all of them are richly absorbing. I sometimes yearn for a few basic simple wines I only need to taste once and can report on within a short text. But these are good growers, alas!
Finally the tastings have comprised a kind of retreat, a place of shelter against the overarching perils of the pandemic. I miss the hell out of my growers and I can’t wait to see them again (whenever…) but meanwhile I am more deeply connected to their work than I was ever able to be. Whether a “large audience” is available for work of such immersive detail, I can’t say. But I’m sure the right eyes will find it. To them I offer the workings of human entirety; tasting not merely with a “palate” but with all the heart and soul and curiosity that travel alongside the tasting apparatus, and which are usually, and sadly, ignored.
I wish us life and liberation in 2022, and that we can once again inhale the joys that give us purpose and delights.