Masterpiece Theatre | wine and the art of limited production


This is a one of one original piece of artwork.  It is very rare (I just said there’s only 1 in existence).  It was painted by my three year old son.  I signed it for him in pencil…he can’t quite write his name yet.  He can’t read yet either, so I will write this:  the monetary value of this painting is about two cents.  To me, of course, it’s priceless.  He works in “mixed media” a lot too…if you know what I mean.  I will try and post up one of those next time I have a spare moment.  But for now, this example of his fine art will serve my purpose.

Now let’s dive straight into wine after that slightly confusing and mildly amusing introduction.  I talk a lot on our website, facebook video feeds, and right here on tiffandsauce about small production / allocated / limited availability wines.  While I really champion this category of wines because they are a personal interest of mine, I am also fully aware that there is a band of skeptics who beg the question | “Does scarcity make it good?”

Being  quite the doubter myself – and always welcoming a healthy debate – I will pull up a seat and play a few hands at this game. Here’s my attempt to explain my affinity for small production wines…and please feel free to either blast me or bandwagon me in the comments.

Connection |  I’ve met people involved in wine projects on a very grand scale.  I’ve spoken with people who produce wines in tiny operations.  And there is everything in between.  While I’m not going to advocate solely for one over another, I will say that when I meet with growers and vintners who have a small project that they hold dear there is a very special connection there.  No detail is too small in these operations because their margin of error is tiny.  Every bit of minutiae nags constantly at the forefront of their thoughts and in the event that error occurs – either human or by a force of nature – their project can be lost.  But here is the conundrum; what happens when the stakes are high, some quality issues crop up, and a producer feels the pressure to just go with what they got and bottle it up to try and save a lost cause?  Bad wine, that’s what happens.  This is why I find it important to follow the reputation & history of the growers and winemakers involved in a small production wine.  This is why I find it important to visit wineries and vineyard sites in person.  This is why I like to taste, evaluate, and discuss every wine that comes into my collection.  It’s a pre-screening, an interview if you will, that helps me to assure a quality presentation when I pass these wines on to a client.  And I know, in most cases, that this “interview” process is available to me when I’m dealing directly with an owner/winemaker of a small production label – and there is usually quite a bit of transparency involved as there is no corporate structure to duck behind.  Which brings me to my next point.

Control | I confess I am a control freak by nature.  There are few if any tasks that I let slip past my own hands and I admit that to be this way is exhausting at times.  But when it comes to knowing a wine, how it got into the bottle, and how it is when it’s pouring out – I want every detail.  While I devour this information as if it were a pint of salted caramel gelato, I would hesitate to place the burden of such an analysis onto every wine drinker that crosses my path.  This is where I take a step back and accept the fact that most people just want a delightful bottle to drink and don’t want it to become their full time job to find one or two of those.  So, I will but myself in the position to appear very nerdy, overly inquisitive, and downright bothersome to the unfortunate wine producers and purveyors that find themselves with an open bottle in front of me.  I will put myself out there to ask all of the dumb questions so that you don’t have to.  Really, it’s no trouble at all.  And at the end of this inquisition, I will be very grateful to my direct contact who had nobody to send in their place to intercept me.  At this point, some might question my need for all of this information.  After all, if I were such a control freak I would just stick to a few wines that I know are going to have some consistency from one bottle/vintage to the next then I could just shut up and drink the damn wine already.  And that brings me to my next draw from this deck of cards.

Artistry | This should be very simply stated:  If I wanted every bottle of wine to be the same as the last, I would save a few bucks and just drink a decent vodka.  Sidenote:  After requests for the same movie for the third or fourth or forty fourth time (I lost count) from our younger son, our older son told him “Variety is the spice of life, and some day you will understand that.”  Younger resorted to crying to get the movie he wanted.  The rest of us waited past his bedtime to watch something more interesting.  Now that’s spoiled, I know.  Really though, the concept is so simple yet it’s so ignored.  We are human and we are creatures of habit.  Sameness is comfort.  Repetition is our jam.  We get off on living up to our own expectations by not expecting anything at all.  When you reach a breaking point with this monotony, turn to a person who has passion about their life and about their work and emulate them.  Feel what they feel and let it convey passion onto your life and your work.  You will find this special genius in most artisan products and especially in artisan wines and that in itself trumps mass production for me any day.

Avarice | If you have had enough of the touch feely – let’s just get down to brass tax here.  We all love it when we have something that nobody else has.  If you want to redeem yourself for this naughty and greedy side of your human nature, the only way to do so with a small production wine is to share a small pour with someone close to you when you finally open up a bottle. It really is exciting when you have the pleasure of consuming a limited production wine and feeling in the moment that, unless you have more bottles of it, that may be your only glimpse into the moment of that wine.  If you wait a few years, or even longer, the probability of a recurrent wine moment becomes less likely.  Relish that moment – that’s what great wine is all about!

Authenticity | Here we have come full circle to join artistry with connection.  When you know the origin of a wine, when you know the story behind it, when you know the people crafting it it becomes real to you.  From here you can draw your own connections and build those wines into your own memories and experiences.  Find the wines that excite you (and of course that taste good to you) and make them special for yourself.  Identify with the people behind the wines, after all, you are probably including the juice they put into those bottles at your table on many a special occasion or gathering of family, friends, and good company. Why share those moments with anything less than authentic?

When I gather together my reasoning and rationalizing about why I search around for wines produced in tiny quantities I’m left with the notion that small production wines aren’t good simply because they are scarce.  They are good because they are a direct representation of the pride and workmanship of those growing the fruit and squeezing the berries.  My one of one Masterpiece hanging at the top of this page is priceless for me because I know the artist.  Each time I have the privilege of connecting a wine lover to a new artisan wine that becomes priceless to them, my glass is filled.






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