The Art of Wine

Wine is narrative‘ is the slogan for Michael Bartier and David Scholefield’s Bartier Scholefield (BS) wine. The truth of that statement is keenly felt in the Okanagan, where local pub and coffee house conversations often revolve around stories of wine and vines, with banter about the best methods for pruning, dealing with pests, when to pick, when to crush and so on. This lively repartee is usually accompanied by good natured ribbing from one winemaker to the other for the way they do things.

Wine is many things to many people. For those inspired by landscape, the vineyard is a beautiful thing and is often the subject of stories and films. Wine is also poetry. From the movie Bottleshock; “Wine is sunlight held together by water.” That is the poetic wisdom of Italian physicist, philosopher and stargazer Galileo. One of the winemakers in the film says: “It all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. The smell of the vineyard. Like inhaling birth. It awakens some ancestral, some primordial… some deeply imprinted and probably subconscious place in my soul.”

Wine for some is simply a vehicle of escape while to others it is to be appreciated in the same way one appreciates art. The thing about wine is that it can mean something to everyone.

Being a wine newbie in Wine Land

I know nothing about wine. But I have decided that I would like to learn. I tell Michael Bartier, winemaker at Okanagan Crushpad, that I’m a complete newbie and his response is that anyone who has been in the wine business for less than 200 years is a newbie. What a nice man.

When you hear descriptions of what a wine might taste like, and some of those descriptions are imaginative and tantalizing, you want to see if the wine really tastes that way. Wine tasting requires a good deal of concentration. It’s a developed skill when the taster can aptly describe the four acknowledged stages of wine tasting: ‘the appearance’, ‘the aroma’, ‘in-mouth sensations’ and ‘the finish’. I personally liked the descriptions; “the wine dances like a lullaby at the tip of my tongue.” or “I detect bacon fat laced with honey melon.”

Some wines are apparently not so subtle. One wine taster on Chowhound, one of my go-to sites for tips on culinary matters said: “On opening, the bottle reeked as few I’ve encountered, it was a veritable miasma of merde.”  You have to love that – it’s so creative. “Still, it was poured into our glasses in the hope that the fecal odour would blow off. It didn’t. It got worse. The tasters expressed their disgust and struggled to describe the foulness. Finally one had a eureka moment: “toilettes de camping,” he pronounced. Everybody agreed.” They then pulled the wine.

Wine is art

Wine is alive and I’ve discovered that it reacts strongly to changes in temperature. At our Riesling blind tasting, we had a Summergate Riesling that was to me like a mountain of fruit that left ones mouth pleasingly perfumed. This was the same Summergate Riesling that I had tasted after pulling it directly from the fridge – and thought it was watered down and bland. Then twenty minutes later after having been left out on the counter, it was as if it had been born again. It was enchanting, enticingly floral and very much alive … lesson #1 for me – make sure the wine is served at a temperature conducive to showing it in it’s best light.

Rickman’s character in the movie Bottleshock says: “Great wine is great art, my friend. I am, in effect, a shepherd whose mission it is to offer the public another form of great art… and to guide its appreciation thereof.”

I have a long long way to go when so far all I’ve been able to isolate and describe was the petrol and the flint in a couple of our 2nd wine tasting’s Rieslings. Oh, and as mentioned, a couple of flowery bits as well. I look forward to the day I get good enough – in 160 (or so) more years, when I can come up with really creative ways of describing a wine. Our blind wine tastings every six weeks are teaching me in spades, although thanks to the wine (I do not spit), I remember very little… except how funny I thought I was.

article/photography by Stephanie Seaton