In Praise of Funk
Thou hast shewed thy people hard
Things: thou hast made us to drink
The wine of astonishment
(Psalm 60,3 Authorized Version)
Some wines are so naughty they deserve to be put in honorary detention. Take our Gamay from the Auvergne (take it, I say), superlatively cloudy, reductive, oozing zum zuyder aromas of fermenting apples. Wild thing/You make my heart sing. The murky wine, vitally raw, prickles and dances, nettles the furthest outposts of your tongue with lancing acidity. 95% of the drinking populace would pucker up on acquaintance with this rude fluid, for it prompts the question: is the wine meant to taste like that? Why not go further: is wine ever meant to taste like that? We’ve heard of nature red in tooth and claw, but most would prefer the tooth and claw filtered out. Call me perverse, but we live such mappined lives, that it is salutary, refreshing and darn therapeutic to glimpse life on the wilder shores, in this case, a wine that does not conform to our notion of tutti-frutti correctness. As Ralph Waldo Emerson says: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
I wonder who laid down the primer for correct and incorrect wine. It is the coldly reductive logic of the Consumer Acceptance Panel which ignores the fact that individuality and unpredictability are what makes wine a living drink. Our list would be a pale shadow if it were missing wines from Cousin-Leduc, Gramenon, Bera, Princic, La Stoppa, Bea and Valentini. To some these may be the taste equivalent of Joan Crawford’s fingernails scratching the underside of an iron coffin, but to others a welcome diversion from the smart, clean-chopped-identikit- oenologically-smoothed clones that bestride the supermarket shelves.
We love these wines for their faults; in fact their faults make them what they are. Made with wild yeasts, handled gently without filtration or addition of sulphur, the wines are alive, constantly in flux, rarely the same one day to the next.