By Aaron and Maggie Walters
A few weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be able to travel to Dallas for a 3-day, full immersion into the world of wine called Texsom. The days were filled with seminars given by the elite in the industry: master sommeliers, masters of wine, wimemakers, importers, brand ambassadors and everything in between! Scattered throughout the day, between seminars and after, were some 30 tables of wines from all over the world to taste and learn about. It was sensory overload in the best of ways! It taught us a great deal about many facets of the wine world. We're going to share with you some of the highlights, in our eyes, of our weekend.
Fortified wines are pretty freaking cool
We felt like we had a pretty good understanding of fortified wines before Texsom. Wrong! We had the most rudimentary understanding of fortified wines. Sherry and Port are not just something that grandma drinks at Christmas. There are some amazing, not so well known, sometimes hard to find fortified wines in the world. Sherry ranges from a salty tart and lemony style called Fino--a great appetizer--to a viscous, sweet, complex style from grapes grown in soil that's hard and cracked like dinosaur skin, then slowly sun dried on straw mats. Forget about ruby and tawny port--what about white port?? So much harder to make, but the effort is well rewarded in the glass. Who knew a sweet wine could be elegant, floral, and last almost a century?? There are so many styles of laborious, hard-to-make wines that some somms dedicate their whole career to them, and dinner tables can easily be filled with them from starter to dessert.
You will never get a definitive answer for a question in the wine world
We had the opportunity to sit in on a five person master somm and winemaker panel discussion on what authenticity means in the wine world. The discussion was very heated, educational, eye-opening, and amusing. On one end of the spectrum was the opinion of a natural winemaker who thinks that wine should go back to its roots; pick some grapes, crush them, let the yeast on the skins ferment the juice, separate the juice and skins, maybe throw the wine in some oak to let it age a bit, and voila--wine. On the other end was a modern winemaker who thinks authenticity is a style that's true to oneself; don't go with the cookie- cutter style that's getting Robert Parker points left and right, but don't just look at wine as something to sit and forget. If you want to control every step of how wine is made, mix up the style and make it something that's a personal expression of you, go for it. Ultimately, it's up to an individual to define what matters. Every aspect in the wine world is subjective.
The era of wine pretension is starting to fade away
Good news! Gone are the days when three piece suits were mandatory for geeking out on wine! There were a few people rocking out the full garb, but they were few and far between. The main M.O. was a pair of jeans, chucks, a graphic tee of your favorite sci-fi film and a blazer; by the end of the night, even the blazer was gone. This definitely translated to a more relaxed environment for learning and sharing about wine. The most sought-after wines at the grand tasting weren't the 100 point award winners, they were the unknown and the undiscovered. We had the opportunity to try wines from Texas; a Japanese sparkling wine made with a native grape called Koshu; and a delicious, Assyrtiko grape made, intensely floral white wine from Greece. People were still fighting over samples of Penfold's Grange (wink, wink) but the theme was "variety is the spice of life." Mainstream and off the beaten path wines can all be enjoyed, sought after and interesting.
The wine world is so much bigger than it appears
We always tell people that you can spend your whole life studying wine and trying to get a grasp on what's going on, and never learn it all. That statement was solidified tenfold at Texsom. When you meet one person whose career is specializing in natural wine production; a professional in fortified wine production; an authority on Italian wines; another on Spanish wines, and they can all talk about wine until the cows come home--it really sinks in, there is so much to learn! It's a great way to appreciate wine and the people of wine more. Someone is responsible for importing that delicious Italian wine that you're enjoying with your dinner tonight, and someone else is responsible for swimming against the flow and putting everything on the line to make a different style of wine that you're really excited about. Six degrees of separation can be applied to the wine world with a producer, and we're all linked one way or another. Consumers are what keeps the wine industry alive, and everyone else plays a role in getting a wine from the winery to a rack on the wine shop shelf. It's a very involved process that's extremely intertwined with all parts of the industry.
Hopefully, this was a fun read. We had a great experience and are always willing to share our takeaways with you! Please don't hesitate to ask us any question you may have!
Aaron and Maggie Walters