Sometimes there are wines that shine above all the others around it. Sometimes there are wines that are good but do not really stand out for whatever reason. And there are wines that stand out but not for the intended reason (faulted, or just weird tasting). This post is about the second.
A little personal history is needed here. I used to act in dinner theatre plays in the Maritimes. Someone actually paid me to act like an idiot. (And I was acting, honest.) It seemed like a dream job at the time. That was back when I had no idea what Chardonnay was and only thought that there were two kinds of wine: red and white.
As we rehearsed the shows over the two weeks leading up to opening night, we played a lot of improvisation games, similar to the games used on shows like â€śWhoâ€™s Line is it Anyways?â€ť One of those games involved taking and giving focus. â€śFocusâ€ť is where one actor on stage takes the attention and makes the audience look at him or her. A showâ€™s director always tries to control where the audience is looking by arranging the actors on stage in various ways for dramatic or comedic effect. Audiences will generally watch the actor who is speaking the loudest. Since our show was largely improvised, we had to be trained to control our focus on the fly and this took a lot of practice as a group.
This is one of the games that we used for exercising focus: We would all wander around randomly on the stage mumbling a story in a low voice. The director would call out a name and that person would have to take the focus by talking in a loud voice above the din of all the other people wandering around randomly on stage. The director would call another name and that person would have to take the focus while the first person would then go back to mumbling in a low voice. It seemed weird at the time and it probably looked just as weird, but as a group we became extremely aware of who had the focus and how to give it and take it. Some of us in the group were naturally better at grabbing the focus and some took the focus with a little trepidation.
I know what youâ€™re thinking: â€śCome on! What does this have to do with wine? I thought you were a wine blogger. I want my 2 minutes backâ€¦â€ť
Well, hereâ€™s the deal. I recently tried out a bottle of 8th Generationâ€™s Merlot 2009. It was good. It had fruit. It was smooth and balanced. It had everything that Merlot is supposed to have. But it just never grabbed me and made me pay attention to it the way an actor grabs the focus on stage. I donâ€™t expect every wine to do that, but having seen what 8th Generation has done since opening their Summerland shop in late 2007, I had expected it to be more attention-grabbing.
They first made me pay attention to them with their Rieslings. They made two versions, an off-dry Riesling and a dry Classic Riesling and both were stunning although I was more partial to the Classic. Then they released a Pinot Meunier RosĂ© which totally knocked me over and made me take BC rosĂ©s a little more seriously. (I still have never driven that far to a winery only to pick up 2 bottles of anything the way I did for that wine a couple of years ago.) Then they released the FrizzantĂ© Chardonnay (and the Confidence RosĂ© a year later) and again my attention turned to them. They seemed to keep coming up with new wines that delivered on taste, balance, complexity, and all those things that I love about wines. Their Rieslings, Pinot Meuniers and the frizzantĂ©s were great at grabbing the focus and made me pay attention.
This merlot did not do that for me for some reason.
Perhaps it is just that merlot doesnâ€™t stand out and take focus in BC. It seems like everyone has a merlot in BC. I can think of only a couple that have stood out and stolen the show while I can think of being blown away by many different Pinot Noirs, Syrahs, Rieslings, Gewurztraminers, and Cab Francs over the years. 8th Generation has always had my attention. Maybe itâ€™s the varietal itself rather than the producer that just doesnâ€™t stand out enough to grab the spotlight and sing into the microphone.
It could be that the house style at 8th Generation is not based around the big, full-bodies reds the way other wineries are. Riesling, Pinot Meunier and FrizzantĂ© wines do not classify as big or full-bodied.
Whatever the reason, this Merlot didnâ€™t grab me and make me pay it any attention the way that a good actor can draw the audienceâ€™s attention. It simply was. And sometimes that isnâ€™t a bad thing.
Cheers from wine country.