It certainly changed my game. I now collect Savennieres, which is so random. I also judge restaurants and wine stores based on their Chenin Blanc selection, or lack thereof (OK, now I’m exaggerating…somewhat).
I hope everyone gets to experience the game-changer, whether it is a high-acid, little-known white or big, rich, heartwarming Cabernet. If you haven’t had a game-changer yet, you can’t look for it; the best way to find it is to keep an open mind and taste as many different wines as you can. You never know… your epiphany wine may be waiting for you this weekend in Fayetteville.
An epiphany wine is the one that sparks a genuine interest in wine. You take a sip, expecting to simply drink it and not think about it, like you always have. Whites taste like whites and reds taste like reds. But this one is different. You simply must know everything about it. Where is it from? Who made it? What kind of grape is this again? Is that oak I taste? I am tasting cinnamon? What is that fruit flavor? Every sip gets better, and sparks a true love for whatever you are drinking. You pick the bottle up, noting the name, vintage, grape, and appellation. You may write it down on a napkin, vowing to buy as much as you can get your hands on. You want to experience that same taste and feeling over and over again.
True wine lovers, collectors, sommeliers, geeks…they all share the same experience. They all have an epiphany wine. Discussing your “epiphany wine” is a common conversation in the wine world. It is fascinating to hear about others’ experiences and how similar, but different, it was to your own. It doesn’t happen for everyone, though. Sadly, some people never have the epiphany wine experience. But if they do, it opens their world to the fascinating, ever-changing, complex world of wine. However, one must be warned: you may become consumed by the subject, possibly want to dedicate your life to it, and you will spend more money on wine. Which is why I like to refer to this “epiphany wine,” which happens to be so apropos for this one game day experience I am about to describe, as the game-changer.
This particular game day, my brotherin-law asked me to pour him a glass of red.
He saw that I was pouring a bottle into a decanter; he was intrigued, and he knew from experience that when I use a decanter, it’s got to be good. I was surprised that he was switching from beer, since he was savoring his last bottle of Fat Tire from his latest stash. I expressed my excitement about having him try this wine, and I mentioned it was on the expensive side. He replied, “I don’t care how expensive it is…I just want it to be good quality!” I was proud of him for making this statement, since quality and price don’t always go hand in hand. However, this wine is a great example of getting what you pay for. I poured him a glass and handed it to him. Although his full attention was on the game, he stopped in his tracks, turned to me, looked away from the TV, and walked over to where the bottle was sitting. I knew what was happening- I’d seen it many times before: this wine was his game-changer!
My brother-in-law’s game-changer is called “Alexander’s Crown,” a limited-production single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley in Sonoma, made by Rodney Strong Vineyards. Located at high elevation, Alexander’s Crown Vineyard was planted in 1971, and is famous for being the first vineyard in Sonoma County to produce a single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Grapes grown at elevation are extremely concentrated in flavor, due to the vines being stressed out and storing more sugar and nutrients in the fruit. This particular wine has balanced acidity as well, which I have noticed is often the case with epiphany wines.
My game-changer was Domaine des Baumard Savennieres, a Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley of France. Savennieres is the name of the village; most European wines are named by their region or village of origin. I was sitting in a seminar about the wines of the Loire Valley, which include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. I knew I liked all of these varietals, but Chenin Blanc- -all of the Chenin I had tasted was flabby, sweet, and NOT from France. This was the problem. I had never had a Savennieres. Chenin Blanc from this region is the best in the world, hands-down. South Africa comes close with some fabulous examples, but there is nothing like the Chenin Blanc from France. It has searingly high acid, making it age incredibly well, but with a crazy amount of richness that comes from the grape, not oak.