Thursday, July 21, 2011

Pinot Grigio, Gestalt, and Reality

I recently told a wine industry insider that my best selling varietal was Pinot Grigio, to which he responded, "That's sad". I got a kick out of that. I was happy because it wasn't Chardonnay and he thought it probably should have been Cabernet or some other red. I actually meant just white wines but perceptions do differ and indeed they do. Here's where I'm coming from...

When it is 90+ degrees day in and day out, I am wanting a very light white to slake my thirst and Pinot hits that spot. With summer heat being the reality that it is, I'm betting others share the same thirst. This summer we have done well with Lageder, Il Palu, Villa Sorono, Santa Julia, Terre di Luna, Capasaldo, Elk Cove, Pierre Sparr, Sensi, Borgo Maddalena, and Maso Canali amongst others. If the knock on Pinot Grigio is that it is perhaps too light and simple, then we have a disconnect because each of the above examples stands on its own with attributes that set each apart from the others. If the pinot is watery, that's different and it just doesn't belong here.

Stephen Tanzer (International Wine Cellar) is probably the best widely read wine critic. Recently he was asked what his criteria was for awarding points for scoring wines. He said he doesn't separate color, nose, finish, etc., for the purpose of grading each but rather he looks at the "gestalt" of the wine before scoring it. Now who remembers Psychology 101? Gestalt means wholeness or a unified whole or from Webster's Best: "a structure, configuration, or pattern of physical, biological, or psychological phenomena so integrated as to constitute a functional unit with properties not derivable by the summation of its parts". So if Mr. Tanzer legitimizes Pinot Grigio, I feel validated. Being a retailer though I would have to downgrade a wine if it has an inferior label because it won't sell, dammit! So much for gestalt.

Now what about reality? "Human consciousness does not decide what reality is. Reality is the existence of all of the possible histories that can't be changed by thinking about them. All of these histories contribute to our present state allowing our observations to pin down that state and enabling us to compute the probability for each history reaching our present state." I read that somewhere. Works for me.

Despite all of the above, I still think that the determining factor in the appreciation of Pinot Grigio is the wininess (oiliness if possible) of the flavors and that's where Europe gets it right.

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