“I can taste the terroir,” I exclaimed as I sipped my glass of Vieux Chateau Landon 2005.
I was so excited to have found a 2005 Bordeaux for under $20. I had stashed this bottle away thinking I’d save it for a special occasion. My husband suggested that a night when we’re eating steak with sauteed mushrooms, onions and peppers along with lemon-garlic Brussel sprouts and mashed Yukon golds was a special occasion.
So, there I was, delighting in the terrior when my husband interjected, “You know, usually when you say things like that, I think you’re full of crap. But in this case, I know what you mean. I taste…not dirt, exactly. Earthy doesn’t seem like the right word. It reminds me of eating mushrooms.”
I stopped him right there. “Umami, baby! We’re tasting Umami!”
“Now, you’re just making up words,” he said dismissively, but still enjoying the wine.
There are fives tastes that our tongues can perceive. They are sweet, salty, sour, bitter and Umami. The latter is a savory, earthy goodness that this lovely Cru Bourgeois Bordeaux has as its dominant theme. It pours out deep red and smells like velvety, cherry heaven bathed in violets. The acidity is crisp, the finish long, the balance seamless. And within each sip, highlighting each flavor, each element is a river of Umami coursing through its structure.
“And this is just a Bourgeois. Imagine what a grand or premiere cru would taste like!”
“I think they would taste like French bureaucracy,” he responded.
We had just been discussing the 1855 classification. My husband argued that nothing could only change once in 157 years and still be accurate. I argued back that the classified growths could command top dollar for their wines, and, therefore had the kind of money it takes to make great wine. It was self-propagating. My husband wasn’t buying it.
The dichotomy of structure versus flexibility is familiar to all of us. We need structure in order to analyze, compare and rate information. But, sometimes information just washes over us. Flexibility will catch the outliers and keep the river flowing.