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The Wine Guy: Wine Relations

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by Rob Campbell, special to The Laurel of Asheville
May 2007

A recent trip to France has started me thinking about relationships. I am a partner in a new business, which markets Burgundies from small, family producers. My partner Steve has known many of them for a decade or more, and has imported their wines over the years for sale in the states. Their relationship has evolved well beyond that of buyer and seller. He is welcomed into their homes as a surrogate family member, and does the same when they are in the States. Their children have visited each other over summer. As Steve’s new partner, I was given the same welcome.

I got to thinking about wine’s part in these relationship equations. It is the commodity that binds us all together, but there is something unique in the nature of this commodity. Wine is most often served in a communal setting, as part of a meal. It is something to be shared. Even the size of the bottle encourages this. At about five servings, a bottle contains more than one person should consume. That same amount, however, is perfect for sharing. The simple act of sharing creates and nourishes relationships. Sitting down to a meal together, even just relaxing with wine, some good bread, and cheese, creates an environment for moving beyond “persona” and relating as people.

Wine is also a living thing, a simple product of the natural process of fermenting grapes. It continues to live in the bottle, nourished by that small amount of air trapped between cork and liquid, and evolving over time. You can actually have a relationship with a wine if you put some bottles away, sampling it from time to time over the years. You experience its evolution from youthful, bright aromas and flavors into a smoother, more intricate and complex entity. There is greater depth as the wine matures, and flavors develop that were not present in its youth. A good wine fades over time with grace. This mirror of our own human experience should not be discounted. I know of few things with which you can have a similar relationship.

It is harder to experience the same feeling with the wines from large wine “factory” producers. I am sure that the grapes, in many instances, come from individuals much like those I am forging new relationships with in Burgundy. The connection to these individuals gets diluted, however, and the identification is ultimately with the company, rather than the individuals involved. It’s tough to have a relationship with a factory.

There is greater sense of place and person for those wines made outside the factory system. I encourage you to get to know the stories behind these wines – the people, where they live, how they live, the character of the wines. These relationships will greatly enhance your wine experience. As the weather warms and we gather on patios and decks, raise a glass to relationships, and enjoy the feeling of connection.

Rob Campbell moved to Asheville in 1999 and with his wife, Dorsey, opened The Wine Guy shop on Merrimon Ave. A second location was added in 2002, and is staffed by their longtime friend and fellow wine enthusiast Steve Nelson. Rob has been in the wine business for more than 20 years, as retailer and wine wholesaler, and he has judged wines in international competitions. Check out theashevillewineguy.com for upcoming tastings, classes, and features.

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