The BBC has a fine article on how science has helped beer in recent years, much of it focusing on one of my personal favourites, Guinness.
Part of the message is that beermakers seek consistency and go to great lengths to make sure a Guinness is a Guinness is a … you get it, the same beer the world over, year in, year out.
I like that. But while consistency in beer is a good thing, albeit with a lot of diversity and three cheers for the new microbrewery boom, the thing I love about wine is just the opposite.
Fine wines should certainly have some consistency, reflecting the personality and craftsmanship of the winemaker, but they should also vary from one year to the next, reflecting nature’s stamp on a year.
Beers remind us of a taste, and they let us off easily – no need to remember what the last Guinness tasted like because this one is the same, and so is the next.
Good wines make us work a little harder. Do you remember the hail storms of summer 2013 that plowed through part of canton Vaud? Do you know that despite a dramatic drop in grapes harvested, it was a good year because the yield was low (concentrated grapes) and autumn weather was fine? And that some wineries had to take dramatic steps to ensure they could stay afloat financially.
Even if you’re not enough of a devotee to care about vintages you can appreciate that a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc from Philippe Bovet in Givrins or a Gamay from the Frères Dutruy in Founex, for example, or a Chasselas from Domaine Delharpe in Bursins, is a treasure because there will never be another one quite like it, past or future.
It’s like having another good friend at the table, who isn’t entirely the same person he was last week, and you know he’ll have changed again, a bit, next year.
Friendship is a fluid relationship, just like the one we have with wines we love.