Monday, March 17, 2008

Simplicity and Balance (or less is often more)


Keith Levenberg has a very thought provoking piece on his blog The Picky Eater. His point is, essentially, that we are always looking for more of things in a wine to establish balance, rather than look for less. An analogy to art would be that often the hard part is knowing when to stop working.  (As a counter-example, see the brilliant power of Michelangelo's rough Slaves, imprisoned by the marble). In certain respects Keith is spot on. Too often we excuse a lack of balance because a wine has interesting individual component characteristics, notwithstanding it ultimately does not equal the sum of its parts. That said, to take a reductionist's view, you could just as well be defending the pleasant and round wines that have no distinguishing marks; the "steakhouse wines" that aim not to offend. However, I agree though that we often miss the peaceful, the tranquil in search of something that knocks our socks off. Just the other night, one of the stars of a recent Grenache tasting was the simplest (and coincidently least expensive) wine on the table. Why was it showing so well? In a word, balance. All of its elements were in their place even if none of those individual parts was a standout in and of itself. A wine at peace with itself.

At the end of the day, we're all seeking wines in balance and Keith correctly points out that balance isn't necessarily each piece ratcheting up to the same level, but often the elements lying peacefully next to each other. I think his point is broader than that and, in part, seeks to attack the critics that take a more is more approach and give voice to the opposite view. It's a great read from an excellent wine writer and I urge people to check it out.

1 comment:

Keith Levenberg said...

Hey Ben, glad you enjoyed the post. I like the art analogy and thought about going in that direction too, but couldn't really find the right pieces to illustrate the point. What did come to mind to me wasn't Michelangelo but Alexander Calder - the typical "landscape" being composed of basic geometric shapes in primary colors. No matter how you define it, it's tough to call one of those compositions complex. Certainly, you could take a landscape by Bob Ross (you know, the Joy of Painting guy with the afro) and find more detail! But the details there are just cheap technique. Calder's simple forms are much more compelling.