A series of conversations issuing from our post last week on whether oxidation should be routinely classified as a wine fault resulted in an invitation from Kenmore Square’s Island Creek Oyster Bar to drop by and taste what they refer to as their ‘rusty whites.’
Seven wines on offer here are made in a self-consciously oxidized style. You can see from the photo that that the colors seem more appropriate to tea than white wine, and that the two in the foreground are somewhat turbid. From left to right, these are the 2005 Nicolas Joly Clos de la Coulee Serrant Savennieres; the 2007 Movia “Lunar” Slovenia; the 2009 Altura Ansonaco Isolo del Giglio. Listed prices are $68, $75, $42, respectively.
Although there is no compelling reason why deliberate oxidation should be linked to the school of natural and biodynamic winemaking, in practice this seems to be the case in those regions where the technique is not already rooted in tradition. The Creek’s general manager, Tom Schlesinger-Guidelli, agreed that oxidized wines are by their nature no more “natural” than other styles of wine.
“By doing this, you’re making a decision to alter flavor, the character, of the wine,” Schlesinger-Guidelli said. “It’s the winemaker’s decision. They all know exactly what they’re doing.”
Yes, Joly’s Savennieres is stylistically edgy, but once beyond this the presentation is polished, even sleek (no turbidity here), and wholly professional. While it doesn’t feel overworked, you don’t have the feeling much was left to chance in its making. Conscientiously detailed, and with a fine-tuned sense of proportion, its oxidative aspects are entirely with the program.
At the opposing pole, the Movia seems to have barely organized itself into wine. The hazy appearance, slight fizziness, and spicy-leesy notes reminded me of farm wine we drank (and relished) in the mountain villages of Cyprus: More like a beer or a even a soup. It’s surely interesting, but the feeling that its current state is the result of a series of contingent events – and that next time around it could be a dramatically different creature is very hard to shake. No doubt this appearance of accidentalness is an illusion. Maybe it’s time we started thinking of Movia’s Ales Kristancic as the Jackson Pollock of winemaking.
When I asked Schlesinger-Guidelli about customer reaction to his rusty whites, he pointed out that they were buried at the bottom of the list for a reason. “Most people are going to be happier drinking normal wine,” he confided, and they don’t often read very far before making a choice. But the person who reads the list to the very end is the type who might really like something different.”
File under: Rust-haves
Originally posted on Boston.com