I'm pretty sure there's a big difference between getting to know a wine, being acquainted with wine and simply being introduced to a wine. And the reason I say this is because I've recently had the chance to spend time with a bottle of wine that I thought I knew after having had it but once. But now, upon revisiting it over a number of bottles, I realize I may have only been acquainted with it and actually misjudged it all together.
This tendency is not unique to me I think. In fact, I believe that for those who taste widely and those who also have an astute palate, even they probably don't know a wine as well as they think they do for having spent perhaps a moment, day or week with it.
If this is true, then it might call into question the whole premise behind most forms of wine evaluation, be it casual, professional or even judgmental.
I happen to be one who has tasted widely and I have a fairly decent palate. It's no super palate, but it is educated. About six months ago I had the opportunity to let loose my palate on a sample of 2006 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. It struck me as magnificent. I've been known to over-appreciate wines, particularly when in the company of others I enjoy. But this first encounter was not such a time. I sat at my dining room table, alone, in relative brightness and poured the SC Chard into an appropriate glass.
Its creamy palate feel only arrived after an attack of nice citrusy acidity. This is a great feeling akin to getting past the sugar coated outer layer of a piece of candy only to find a nice sweetishly, slick sour core under the granules.
On the nose I found hints of smoke, lime, pear and apple. I remember the apple distinctly. In the mouth the apple and pear were soaring and little herb rounded it out.
I tasted the same wine about 3 months ago. Same vintage. Same vineyard. Bland, flat, fat ripe apple. That's it. Disappointed.
Two months ago I tasted it again. Bland, flat, fat ripe apple. Disappointing yet again.
I tasted it last night once again.
I figure after these four bottles I've spent a good hour thinking about what this one, single wine has to offer. That includes the 15 minutes last night marveling at its crisp and creamy mouthfeel and the pungent flavor forecast of apple, pear and citrus that came from its aroma.
Here's the thing. I don't think I got bad bottles. I know they were stored in identical fashion. I know they came out of the same case of wine and were likely bottled right after one another from the same tank, with the same filters and the same closures.
The simple fact is that wine is a lot like people. You really don't know what you have in front of you when you meet someone, at least not until you spend a good deal of time with them and sort out those characteristics that are their's, whether they are in a good mood or bad.
As I mentioned before, if this is essentially true of many wines, that they have different personalities under different circumstances and at different times, then I'm just not sure what to think of wines that are reviewed after the reviewer has five minutes (at most) with them. In fact, I don't even want to think about that.
The best lesson my last bottle of the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay taught was that we ought to let people and wines reveal themselves over time, because it might turn out they get even more intriguing over time. And a little bit of intrigue in our lives is a good thing.