I’m often asked, with a head raised in wry interrogation, what my favourite wine is. This often comes right after my revealing that I’m in the wine trade and is often less for the want of some insight and more for the want of a tip or recommendation. I’m sure that all my colleagues go through on a regular basis and of course I/we don’t mind it at all; if I met, say, someone involved in banking then I’m sure one of the first things I’d ask them was where the best savings account is to be found, or some other such question given that I have little to no experience in the sector and can reasonably assume that my new acquaintance will enlighten my ignorance. That’s what intelligent conversation is all about, isn’t it? The exchange of knowledge and ideas and all that?
The problem is that this doesn’t really translate into the wine world, and for illustration I think there are very strong parallels between people infatuated with wine and those similarly taken with music. If you were to ask a wine lover and a music lover what their ‘favourite’ was of their respective disciplines then I’m sure you’d be faced with very similar replies: that it depends on your mood, the occasion, who you’re with, what the aim of the wine/song is, the weather, your location, etc. etc. etc.
Combine this with the fact that everyone’s taste is, of course, so subjective and varied then what you have unfortunately is an intractable question. There simply is no way, when put on the spot, to choose a favourite when the variables are so diverse.
That said, however, I introduce to you now my fail-safe bottle of wine. This is by no means my favourite because I can’t possibly have one (see above and, please, pay attention). The wine in question is Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir, which I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself with a few days ago.
Cono Sur are the masters of Pinot Noir in Chile, choosing to take much of their lead from Burgundy in France, Pinot’s historical and spiritual home. And no the name is not a play on the word connoisseur, like so many (understandably) believe, but it in fact means ‘southern cone’ or the shape of the continent on which Chile is based.
The ‘Visión’ range, meanwhile, will soon be re-named ‘Single Vineyard’ to make it easier for the foreign market, and as the name suggests they vinify the wines from specific sites rather than just Chile in general. This tends to give more character, definition and a sense of place to the end product – in other words what the French call terroir (for starters at least – don’t get them started!).
So for this Pinot Noir they get the grapes solely from ‘Block 68 Old Vine’, a plot of land with Chile’s first planting of Pinot Noir in 1968. It’s such a lovely wine because, to my mind at least, it has a bit of everything: it’s mineral and austere yet juicy and approachable; precise yet easy-going; fresh yet wears a little age with grace. And the taste of it?
The over-riding note that I got from it was, wait for it, tomato stalks. Yes, really. You often hear of these random wine terms and never expect, nay believe, that they exist. In fact I’ve often found myself wanting to snort in laughter in a kind of reverse-snobbery smugness when I read some off-the-wall tasting notes. Until the day, that is, when you finally, accidentally, discover them for yourself. So for the Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2010, tomato stalks it is.
But that’s not all of course. There’s redcurrant – that sharp, well, red scent you get on the nose and palate, then strawberry as it softens in the glass. It has a lovely lively acidity, and, I think, is best drank slightly chilled. When it does warm up however the fruits darken and take on a more ‘baked’ characteristic, but only relative to what has come before.
But anyway, I could go on, but it’s a contemplative wine and those types of wine can cause wine-lovers’ fingers to fall off in a frenzy of typing. But let me say that it’s a ‘good friend’ of a wine: always great company, amenable to your mood, good in any situation. One of my favourites.