Or knowing the wine rules rules well enough to break them...
Wine, much like music, has been with us as a civilisation for hundreds and thousands of years. Invented I believe for the same purposes. Used to celebrate, used to wallow, used to continue beating the same rhythm into our lives. And wine much like music has seen the most turbulent, beautiful and terrifying changes. Changes in technology, method, vision, and direction. We all talk of terroir, of place versus permanence, of provenance versus the established. Of the classic albums and where they take us to, where they take us from. Wine and music are the escape, and in that complex methodology of expression, techniques get called into question. From the tried and true, to the uncovered truths of the trivial. Analog and digital, “natural” and “conventional”. For some things these changes have been brought about to facilitate mass production, to push to the masses and to create a linear polished product. For others, techniques have been pushed for the reason of convenience, of the need for more time, more time to be creative, but also more time to take care. Some will argue that a more analog approach will yield more soul from the source. And some would be right. But as to a style over substance argument, then that is an entirely convoluted one.
The consequences of clarity and purity in wine
The push for clarity and purity in these beautiful things, these things we need, these mediums of expression, sometimes leaves us unclean. The sheen of pure pop brilliance versus the basement tapes of the tortured soul. What rings true to us as a people? Is it a matter of taste? Is it actually genre specific? They don’t really dance around each other so clearly. In some cases of taste, tasting the wrong way can be the equivalent of being tone deaf. In some opinions. Now we find ourselves in the trend of the artisan. Where older techniques are called to for the reason of expression and, unfortunately in some cases, as a marketing tool. In saying that, anybody’s motives can always be called into question. Expression doesn’t equate to truth, and truth does not always equate to what is right. Not always.
The misnomer that is natural wine
Any true believer of the real things will always spot a fake, and that is the main difference between the revolution and revelation of natural winemaking. The term of “Natural” wine is such a misnomer. As if you would call your eggs “Natural” eggs? “Natural” bacon. No. We call them free range, we call them organic, we call them cage free. We get into specifics. There is no blanket fashionable term. And that is where we derive from what we enjoy or believe. And in the scientific, the biblical and romantic fruit of the gods we call grapes, we can tell stories. Paint in the exotic pigments of the earth. In the best cases of wine we find truly beautiful expression. So, in conclusion; the question of revolutionary winemaking versus simply utilizing the old ways is mottled in all shades of grey. I like to think of it in the way of looking back to look forward, wine could not be made like this a hundred years ago even though they might be getting produced in a similar fashion. The people that make wine today know what they are doing, some of the most exciting, prolific, eccentric and boundary pushing winemakers in Australia have trained under some pretty straight laced producers. This to me is the equivalent of knowing the rules well enough to know how to break them to yield the most beautiful results. Being well versed in enough theory to know exactly what to throw out the window.
Profile: Tai Tate
Tai takes care of the wine list at both Mary’s in Newtown, which is an all-natural list made up of mid to high end international wine and a complete range of Australian wine, as well as the list at The Unicorn Hotel, which is all Australian and either produced for the venue, bottled by the Hotel or sold exclusively to the Unicorn.
We caught up with Tai and chated about wine lists, tips on ordering wine when out and changing tastes. He told us how the wine list at Mary's, a burger and fried chicken joint in Newton in Sydney, grew from just eight wines by the glass to an amazing and diverse wine list.
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