Elegance in wine is together with Moscato’s boom and the emergence of both natural and low-alcohol wines a new major trend in the wine-world. A term, linking mostly to architecture, decoration, fashion and sometimes to the description of mainly female silhouette. Classic definition includes doses of refinement, grace and beauty with the backdrop of a moderate and restrained nature. If elegance was exclusive a female privilege then it would definitely glance an eye to two great ladies, Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly.
The basic prerequisite therefore, is for no characteristic both on the nose and on palate to protrude in a way that is noticed.
For wine then, the question seems pretty fair; where does elegance fit in a tasting note and how can one tell if a wine’s feature escapes of its discreet character. As it is expected, spotting elegance in wine is by no means as simple as distinguishing a house’s lines or a woman’s silhouette that usually stand out in the crowd. Therefore an overuse or sometimes misuse is much anticipated like many other wine-terms having a commercial appeal; terroir being the most glaring example. But obviously it is impossible for all wines to be stylish. The basic prerequisite therefore, is for no characteristic both on the nose and on palate to protrude in a way that is noticed. On the other hand, some wines find their elegance on the way, starting their life like ugly ducklings like Nicole Kidman and Kate Blanchett, before metamorphosed into adorable swans. Classic left bank Bordeaux vintages are such wines, largely because their tannins in the beginning are incoherent; so is their vegetal, cedary character. With time however, elegance starts to appear when all elements are incorporated under a moderate frame. Other cases can be more controversial like Pavie 2003 from St Emilion which caused a major war between Jancis Robinson MW and Robert Parker, Jancis describing it as a ridiculous wine that resembles Port and late harvest Zinfandel. If a wine delivers instead opulence, no matter how well balanced it may be, it would be hard to call it elegant. We believe in some exceptions, that even if they don’t fall in a traditional way under the umbrella of elegance, they do retain some of its elements. It can be too much describing, for example a Chateauneuf-du-Pape which is more of a beast as elegant having 16% abv, full body and super ripe fruit, but Janasse Vieilles Vignes expresses both freshness and well hidden alcohol. Try to compare and contrast Monica Belucci with Pamela Anderson for better understanding and safer conclusion!
Another question that comes to the table is whether one can intervene with elegance in a similar way to a breast reduction or augmentation plastic surgery. In other words, whether non – natural elegance could exist. And why not is the answer, since numerous ways of fine tuning are at the winemaker’s convenience that may lower or add acidity, remove alcohol, etc. And even if such methods make romantic notions associated with wine as a natural product hazy, they can have amazing results provided they are done in a skillful way. Otherwise better to stay with the biggest breasts.
If a wine delivers instead opulence, no matter how well balanced it may be, it would be hard to call it elegant.
Taking a look at the wine-world, it can be noticed that the shift to more elegance is greatly related with Australia where cool climate Chardonnays have been occasionally mistaken by many people in blind tastings as fine Burgundy. Not that the rich, creamy and buttery Leeuwin Estate style has totally vanished, although even this is now more elegant than ever before. But in Yarra Valley, winemaker Mac Forbes stretches cool viticulture to the limits with his basic Chardonnay being only 11.8% abv and treated with less than 15% new oak. And all these follow the natural movement rules adding only very small dose of SO2. Moreover, top Aussie Chardonnay Giaconda and Cullen rarely exceed 13% abv while country’s coka-cola Jacob’s Creek offers Classic with just 12.7%. Spain and Italy followed naturally. Especially in Ribera del Duero even Spain’s most expensive wine, Pingus comes now in less obvious style eliminating 200% new oak treatment(yes it exists with 12 months in new oak and racking in new oak again for further maturation) and preferring from 2008 only second use barrels. Mencia in Galicia and the rise of the wines of Sicily (Etna) with elegant high altitude Nerello Mascalese give a complete picture of the wine in the age of elegance.
And what is the case in Greece? Well, although we are still in the era of over-excitement for red wines in particular with several producers believing that great wines will come through sur-maturité, longer extractions and luxurious use of new oak, more and more wines are starting to appear in an elegant frame. New age oaked Argyro’s Assyrtiko, Limniona Zafeiraki, and Limnio from Kikones Estate are some of the wines we have already revealed with many still on the way.