“I see minimalism to be a philosophy that involves an overall sense of balance, knowing when to take away, subtract. It’s an indulgence in superbly executed cut, quiet plays of colour tones and clean strong shapes.” – Calvin Klein
At worst, it is boring. Black and white, black and white, maybe a bit of navy to mix it up. You better be something more than your clothes when you wear pure Minimalism.
In fact, it is deceptive. Minimal-style fashion looks effortless but it is the most difficult. At first it looks simple: a black coat, so what? But look closer and notice the cut, the quality of the fabric and the tailoring involved. It is about the weight of fabric, the texture and rich material.
It takes discipline. I know. I have tried to adhere to minimal style a few times. What happened? I found myself splashing out with bright colours and sneaking in a crazy print – put it away! It’s not minimalism.
What is interesting to me, is the same terms used for minimalism fashion and minimalist art are also used to describe fine wines: balance, elegance, quality.
When I first stared out at the big sea of different tastes, I looked for the outrageous or different or unusual. Thinking, as it stands out, it must be somehow better! I just didn’t get it! I got the big wines! It’s like a paragraph! With too many exclamation marks!!!
After experiencing some of the best wines in the world, I find they are surprisingly quiet. I am sure a few years ago I would have overlooked them in a group tasting. It’s not a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes – they just don’t seem to need any outside approval, or any superfluous comments piled upon them that would detract like extra frills or ridiculous bows.
Here is my note after tasting 2011 Chateau Latour during En Primeur week in Bordeaux, tasted in May 2012 (£4,800 per 12 bottles):
Perfect Pauillac. At the tasting room at Chateau Latour was one of those ceilign-to-floor windows overlooking the vineyard. There is a sofa in the room and after taking a taste, we longed to sit down and take a seat, look at the view, and linger over this glass for a few hours. After tasting hundreds of wines, Latour had the same effect as going on a long holiday – it is only when you are lying on the beach you realize how tired you actually are; you can go around in circles, but this is what many wines in this vintage aspire to be. Completely self-assured and nautral, there are wonderful flowers and minerals on the nose, wth deep and complex fruit, leadng to masses of flavour on the palate. Not big (in fact, it seems more delicate than Forts des Latours) but powerful. The tannins are very fine and the finish is long, delicate and textured. This is what this vintage can achieve when the best of conditions are met.
The wine critic, Robert Parker Jr, once lashed out on twitter at people who liked the restrained style of wine and called them (brilliantly), “Anti-Flavour Elites”. Unlike wines jam-packed full of berries and fruit until they are fit to explode, these wines were often colourless, restrained and, par for the course, quite expensive.
I’m thinking here of the Chateau d’Esclans range of Provence wines. All Provence pinks have a pale quality, but the top wine Garrus is very pale, without much pink colour at all yet the palate is intense with beautiful tailoring of flavours. Very clear, strong and defined and defined by herbal characters rather than fruit. The ultimate anti-flavour elite wine.
From the distance, minimalist fashion looks easy. Come closer, and it has excellent cut, beautiful fabrics and clean lines. It often happens, half way through a dinner or half way through a bottle, that I realise just how good the wine actually
is (and, more often than not, nearly fainting when finding out the price afterwards).
But there is another aspect that I admire about minimalism.
It is the paring things down to the essential. To cut the clutter. To have a laser focus on quality rather than quantity. It is conscious rather than conspicious consumption.
The upfront costs are more but there is something anti-consumerist to buy one perfect coat, handmade or tailored by a craftsperson, and wear it for ten years rather than buy 5 disposable coats.
I would prefer to have one perfect glass of champagne than to have a bottle of something generic. Which one is more boring?
Admittedly, Minimalist fashion takes more discipline than I always have, especially when faced with so much diversity, change and adventure. I am greedy. As Pascal said, I like to lick the earth. The next post is the complete opposite of Minimal.
Certainly, not all wines in the Minimal style are expensive as Latour. Some expensive wines are the epitome of bling. Here are five styles to try:
Five Minimal Wines:
- 2010 Chablis
- Eden Valley Riesling
- Top Provence Rose (at £20)
- Verdicchio di Matelica (over £10)
- Albarino (unoaked)
What about reds? Nebbiolo in a good year, is the first to come to mind.
This post has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in July 2015.