Wine Fetish and the Edge of Taste

Because I like my ankles, I learned quickly stilettos are not practical on the cobbled streets of central London. Some shoes are not made for walking. The only sensible place to wear them is in bed.

That said, some wines are not made for drinking. I have noticed over the years, people who become fixated on wine long enough, begin coveting the bizarre tastes, the hard-to-find, the wine-beyond-price.

For the everyday olfactory worker, this fetish for strangeness can not be talked about in polite company.

You can not admit too much to your own personal preferences. To the outside world, if you talk about wine, you are supposed to be objective arbiters of quality who can communicate to the largest audience possible; it is better to supress your boredom with the clean, choc-berry matrix and the desire for new kingdoms of taste by hiding the key in the cellar.

The other reason is the blank look given to people who don’t understand. No one wants to be elitist. What I am talking about is a different thing altogether; it is not about purposely alienating yourself from everyday tastes: you just find yourself there.

If fetishes are about “a course of action to which one has an excessive and irrational commitment,” then most people I know in the wine industry could say that about the search for flavours.

I am ashamed to admit, these wines recently have given me a delicious thrill even though for most people they will probably taste “wrong”.

Mezzacorona’s 07 Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva from the Alps in Trentino is wine as extreme sport. It is a surreal parade of flavour: meat strawberry, leather blackcurrant, prune black pepper and a menacing medicinal smoke that would turn-off the most malevolent of spirits.

R. Lopez de Heredia Viña Tondonia Blanco is a difficult, sherry taste. Try the Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva 2000. This wine seems to upset people as if they were asked to complete a folder of accounting over their summer holidays. There is no friendly, fruity, typical pink wine taste – this tastes like it is on the verge of dying on your tongue from being lost in the Spanish desert. I like it intellectually, I want to know the ancient vines, I can see it tastes of the land and admire how annoying it is for not fitting the stereotype of Rose. I am not sure who I could drink it with, which makes it the most contrarian Rose out there.

I know it is always a bit mean, giving out zero sugar girlfriend, always with a bitchy comeback, but how good is Tarlant Zero Brut Nature.  Ultra-dry, the tongue is in pain for a few seconds. That will turn off most people immediately. But it is one of the most interesting Champagnes out there. And if you have it once, you want to try it again just for the sting.

My twitter note from the Annual Champagne Tasting (11 March 2011), this is “only for the hard core flagellic booze taster. So I like it a lot …” Serious fun, but a strange party.


  1. Ron Combo says

    Wine as extreme sport. I like that. I also like Teroldego and get to drink quite a lot with an Alpine choir from Trento. Serious drinkers that lot I can tell you.

  2. Juel Mahoney says

    Watch out for those yodelling drinkers… they are SERIOUS !

  3. I love the notion of wine not intended for drinking. Is it then a wine? It brings up important issues about perception and sensation (and memory) and although it stretches back to St. Augustine, in our times it’s distilled in the conundrum: if no one hears a tree fall in the woods, does it make a sound? There are way too many wines not intended for consumption out there! I’m with you…

    • Juel Mahoney says

      Grazie Dottore – some wines I really enjoy for the extreme flavours but I know my friends who are not in wine trade would simply find too much and would not see it as a wine – in the sense of what they see as something as just to “relax and enjoy”. That’s not my total view of wine. I do enjoy the stretch in senses, and more besides.

  4. Juel, I too am nuts about Lopez de Heredia wines (not that I can afford them!) Such a shame that they decided to go with FMV rather than Indigo, despite our visit… We too seek out the weird/interesting. Some of my favourites have left me with the thought ‘What the ****? before beguiling at second taste. Come along to the Dirty Dozen tasting for 24 of our best plus assorted gems from 11 other top smallish importers. Email me if you can’t find jthe deets. Great blog btw

    • Juel Mahoney says

      What is it about that Lopez de Heredia, it’s completely crazy but I love it, too. How many times have I seen someone who mistook it for any other Rose and nearly die of fright, though. It should never be in the Rose section of a wine shop/menu – it’s in a class of its own. It slightly freaks me out – so I must congratulate it for doing an amazing job of wakening up the senses! Would have no idea what to make of it when I was a younger taster. Bonkers. Yes, I will definitely be at the Dirty Dozen tasting, I’ve been looking forward to it. Thanks for comments, see you then.

  5. Your blog catches my mood precisely – Some wines become popular amongst some wine tasters because they are exceptional. But I think that merely being unusual is not enough for anyone to want to drink them. They have to be good. Clearly “good” becomes a matter of taste and thus subjective. But there is, nevertheless, shared tastes amongst wine drinkers. Some times the “middle of the road” is better than “the road less travelled” because sometimes the road less travelled is just a shitty road.

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