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Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Fine wine vs an apt metaphor

Storms, natural phenomena, death, sex? How best to describe the blossoming of interest in certain fine wine vintages?
Late last year, the fine wine market began to get very excited at Robert Parker’s retrospective of the 2005 Bordeaux vintage – particularly as he had just rated the ’05 Mouton Rothschild 99+ – would it make it to a full 100-points in June?
As the reckoning approached the speculation mounted and so did prices. On 29 June the storm broke, though not quite the way many expected. The scores were heavily slanted towards the Right Bank, 10 of the 12 100-pointers being from Pomerol or Saint-Emilion and the other two being from Pessac-Léognan.
None from the Médoc, Mouton slipped back to 97, Margaux stayed on 98+ and other scores were, said Wine Asset Managers, “fairly ordinary”.
No matter, Parker’s scores drove a flurry of fresh trading in those wines that had been rated “perfect” – and even some that hadn’t been – and for a week the 2005s basked in the attention, holding a 37% share of all the wines traded by value on the entire Liv-ex marketplace for the week of 26 June-2 July.
And then, just as abruptly, the interest was over. The following week from 3-9 July the 2005’s share of trade was just 2%.
There was no especially earth-shattering reason for this, nothing sinister or cataclysmic. As Liv-ex director Justin Gibbs explained, the release of re-scores and upgrades from Parker always creates a very intense but also very brief period of activity and then – like an ocean after a storm – all is calm once more as if it never happened.
There were a number of metaphors that struck me as pertinent to this situation – storms and their various derivatives (tempests/typhoons/cyclones etc), as used above are obvious but a little clichéd.
Sex is another; one could either describe the build up to the Parker retrospective as a particularly delicious bout of lovemaking with the release of the scores the inevitable conclusion. Or, if you prefer, all that waiting was a frustrating dry spell and the short trading period synonymous with premature ejaculation and disappointing for all concerned.
But wine and sex is equally riddled with cliché (foaming Champagne eruptions) and it makes people embarrassed or outraged or both and they’ll say you’re only doing it for the shock factor. Then again, there’s always the chance you’ll end up in the Literary Reviews “Bad Sex” awards which is a treasure trove of toe-curling writing (the bad sort).
Perhaps reference to one of those natural events is where billions of mayfly or cicadas are born and live for a day and then die en masse might work? There’s a particular type of frog that lives, asleep underground in the Australian Outback for up to 30 years at a time until it rains when it emerges to mate and then goes back underground again – or perhaps dies. And/or is probably eaten by some monstrous Aussie snake/spider/killer bird/dingo. Monumentally pointless either way and wine is not, so that is not a good metaphor.
The one that is perhaps the best, and certainly the most suitably poetic, is the symbolism tied up in that prettiest of flowers, fruit blossom – and cherry in particular.
In Japan cherry blossoms, with their brilliant but short existence, symbolise the transience of life – a central theme in Buddhism .
The samurai – whose warrior code bushido was a blend of Buddhism, Shintoism and neo-Confucianism – also adopted the cherry blossom as an aesthetic and powerful symbol of a beautiful life cut short.
Falling cherry blossoms represented fallen samurai who died in battle, an allegory that reached perhaps its apogee during the bloody Sengoku jidai of the sixteenth century when the average life expectancy of most samurai was less than 27 years old. Their life was geared to one purpose and, strange as it may seem to us, a “beautiful” death was the ultimate fulfilment of that creed. To live and die in battle was to blossom and fall from the tree of life at the most perfect of moments.
This, it is clear, is more appropriate. Without getting too bogged down in vacuous cant it’s easy to see that a wine, like the samurai or indeed a Spartan, has but one purpose and one fate*. It exists to be drunk as the warrior does to die and its desired end will, it is hoped, be beautiful. One precious moment and then gone forever.
And whether collecting or drinking it, the goal with wine is to catch it at just the right moment – like cherry blossom.

Source: www.thedrinksbusiness.com

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