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A Paradox, the Betrayal and the Reckoning

by Seth M. Long

I didn’t know she was the Bastard Daughter. Like most, my love affair with Chardonnay had a rocky start. Her lineage was still unknown to me, I knew not from whence she came. When she met me on a whim, I had no idea that the loud and cloying, sweet and hollow frame was just an egregious impostor. This is the paradox. The ubiquity of it all has only exacerbated the problem of an already reprehensible masquerades of watered back, ethanol-laden, oak-chip saturated, indecorous and industrial swill.

When I made my judgment, I was not yet aware of her chameleon-like nature, I had not idea she was such a savvy traveler. Ignorance was not so much bliss as they say. In this case, it was a burden that I would learn to carry. Much of her beauty is easily masked behind façades – behind style. All bust and no curve, a Happy Meal version, Biggie Sized. I shudder to think back to our first encounter. The long and the short of it: we broke up before it ever started. The wine was like a one-night stand: clean but dirty, lustful and hot, awkward, quick and definitive. We’ve both moved on.

Before I saw her best work, I suffered through her worst. I came to realize she too is sometimes sullen. Can you blame her? Her power and her grace is easily misguided, her litheness and adaptability taken advantage of. While some adorn and house her lavishly, I find it rarely suits her and too often it seems, when we coax her out her glass house to play, she barely utters…

It is a shame when only her would-be pimps speak.

This is her identity crisis.

To truly know her, you must see through her faults, like anyone. When she shines, when she is permitted to thrive, this is true character. She is resilient and she is perhaps a great teacher. It was with Chardonnay that I began to see wine as a way to ground myself in place through it’s liquid. It was only after I opened my mind that I would be able to see through the paradox, to read between the wines.

This is a task anyone who desires to know Chardonnay must undertake.

Through the teachings of those more knowledgeable, I came to learn she could also speak in soft, mineral whispers, with crispness, freshness, eloquent richness. Her distinct demeanor began to enchant me as much as it annoyed me. I was intrigued, but played it cool. More and more as I delved into wine history, learned of her dirty limestone secrets, I came to adore her. I clamored for her attention, seeking the beguiling sensation of tasting through her expressions, exploring the clarity of her character.

I’ve learned to pay more attention to the details, to her comings and goings. Slowly I am learning to tune out the forceful and obnoxious habits she sometimes shows. I focus on finding the delicacy she embodies when treated respectfully.

Respect is the ultimate compliment to her.

The transparency she displays, when treated with respect, love and affection, can be breathtaking. But she has moods. I only want more of her innate character to come through, for she is beautiful without brawn, her tense robe of veracity needs little help. Liquid lambency exists within her, if you allow it, if you support the intrinsic character drawn from her roots, taken in through the light caught by her outstretched hands-those furrowed hands of stem, tendrils, leaf. Her bounty can be borrowed every year, though it must be tended, a careful guardian, a caretaker, and guide, a poet of the earth, liaison of the sun and moon, usher of the dirt.

It is like a vinous tightrope, such a thin line between ‘success’ and ‘failure’, between ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Her truths are often more palatable when subtle, more enchanting when lithe, fresh and taut. She so eloquently speaks language of crumbled limestone, weaving stern minerality into velvet stocking. She can echo the soil, shell and pebble, whisper lemon blossom and sweet herb, caress like peach skin and quench like nectarine juice. She can explain complexity of place, parse out the dynamics of wild interaction of grape, vine, human and time like no other.

You must allow her to shine in order to learn who she is.

Some of us have found a way to forgive false circumstance. We’ve seen the light that each of these authors described in their own way…about how Chardonnay has charmed her way back into our hearts.

Too many have sold Chardonnay short. It is too easy to strong-arm her charm, her grace, her transparency, to literally make a monster. She has no free-will, she is humble, pliable and honors every decision, wears these colors on her sleeve. There is nowhere to hide with Chardonnay. Look at the box store shelves cluttered with clumsy wines selling for $X.99 a bottle, but claiming no purpose to defy ease. There is power in knowing when to do nothing. She is case in point.

And what of the wildly expensive and cult bottlings? These too may reek of maligned disrespect of vine, earth and intrinsic expression. Those brooding bottles of muscle, pumped up with high glycerol, ethanol and pompous bravado. They bitch-slap you with contempt, they care neither for you to savor or share.

This project’s aim was merely to start a discussion, to raise awareness about the paradox of Chardonnay. Thank you to all those who contributed, your voice was heard! And now, a cheers to the vine, it’s caretakers, the crafters, the farmers, the vignerons… they deserve our respect and understanding. They are the ones who express the truth, who translate the vinous language of Chardonnay that so many do not want to hear.

To usher a grape that so deftly changes with site, with style of farming and vinification, is no easy task. For Chardonnay, every action is magnified in the liquid. Chardonnay is a sponge. There is nowhere to hide with her.

Does your bullshit meter go off when you look at that bottle? If it does, I urge you to put it down.

Just say no to bullshit Chardonnay. For that matter, say no to bullshit wine.

This blog, named Seler d’or, is after what I understand to be Vinous Aesthetics. This is the antithesis of bullshit. REAL wine, craft wine, grown and made clearly and without aid of makeup. Natural or not, you’d better have a good reason to be tending vine, vinifying wine, selling bottles or palates. The saying is that ‘life is too short to drink bad wine”. I’d add, life is too short to waste time on something you don’t believe in.

I urge you to vote with your dollar and buy REAL wine.

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