What unites these two producers is they were (and maybe still are)
fellow members in a grower group called “Vinovative,” and I united them in what I called a trilogy-of-charm (along with Bernhard Ecker, most of whose wines are either not represented or barely so in the U.S.), and I did that because charm, as a quality, matters greatly to me.
In wine terms, I define charm as a quality of deliciousness that delivers happiness to the drinker. And by that I mean you have a sense that the wine likes you and wants to give you pleasure.
Charm is undervalued. I used to think it was misunderstood, but these days I rather think it’s drowned out by the louder (and coarser) attributes. There are places charm doesn’t belong, naturally; serious wines or powerful wines or stupendously complex wines. Yet charm is a particular system for delivering joy, and this feeling isn’t much discussed in the oh-so-terribly-serious world of wine.
All seriousness is hardly specious or affected – again that goes without saying. As does the truism that wine offers many kinds of joy. There are certainly deeper joys than charm, as there are quieter ones, and more evanescent ones.
But are there greater ones? I’m not at all sure.
In the marketplace it’s clear that “happy” wines are left in the dust by wines of loftier purpose. This is also a plausible hypothesis in the world of critical discourse, as well as its superficial arm, the “rating systems and scores.” It might have been fun to assemble a portfolio consisting entirely of joyous wines, assuming there are enough of them. HAPPY WINES, it could be called, or (maybe even better) 86 POINTS AND LAUGHING. Well, <sigh>, that will be someone else’s row to hoe, if you can find anyone as crazy as I am.
The ingredients in charm are straightforward; deliciousness and a pleasing texture. These are incompatible with excesses of any sort, most prominently alcohol and acidity. Hans Setzer’s wines have often shown charm, especially in their low-to-mid ranges, and their Zweigelt is a wonderful proof that charm doesn’t equal frivolity – though they didn’t send a sample of it this time. Erich Berger’s wines have seemed a bit more self-serious over the years. This may be a mid-life thing, as I also saw it with Walter Glatzer, and of course one can only sympathize. A vintner pushes his envelope when he is compelled to, and he needn’t concern himself with the impression made on some charm-hound he happens to have as an importer.