The latest from Zig Zag Rd

Feb 21, 2024

The tonality of wine (or maybe just a dad complex)

I’m in the bathroom, passing Harriet – who’s sitting on the loo – 40ml of marsanne in a recently purchased rioja glass. Kids screaming at each other about an Octonaught toy they’ve decided they both want in equal measures. The life of under-resourced vignerons in a new country with two young children and a new business. “This would be a great instagram photo” she says, whilst smelling, swirling and tasting the wine for our wine bench trial.

This one is 25% oak, 75% stainless steel, undergoing a process of batonnage (stirring the lees in the wine to extract texture, aroma and flavor). We’re comparing the base wine (nothing done to it), with this wine, to make a decision on what to do from here: invest in oak or not; regularly mix the lees or not, age for a while or bottle now.

We haven’t got a classic winemaker’s vernacular, without formal education, and so do our best to describe the wine as the sensations reveal themselves. It’s how we’ve been doing it for 6 years now, and we’ve made some lovely wines from the method. Perhaps more of an artistic bent than a scientific one.

This time I think of tonality in music.

The original wine is all treble, with less mid and bass. Like you’re listening to some pop on a small bluetooth speaker. Really enjoyable, and something you do often to lift your mood. You can get a lot out of it. It’s aromatic and pretty. I’m tapping my foot.

But the wine with a little oak and batonnage is subtly more elegant. It brings up the mid and bass, and the treble is lost. Well, not so much lost, as balanced with the other tones. It’s more interesting, warm. You’d listen to it when you’re entertaining perhaps. Get dressed up and feel a little special. Not so everyday, but more unique, elegant and complex.

It’s probably analogue rather than digital, perhaps vinyl through an old amplifier. It warms through your body and goes deeper into your soul. Perhaps a little pout in the crescendo if no one is looking.

That’s it. That’s it. We love the metaphor.

What would the finest wine in the world be? Perhaps listening to Freebird by Lynard Skinnard through the Abbey Road mastering equipment. Or putting on some sound canceling Bose headphones and listening to the entire Dark Side of the Moon concept album. Maybe Badly Drawn Boy through an old analogue mixer.

Of course, very subjective, and I’m dating myself a little. But it captures it for me. The tonality of music with the sensation of wine.

I grew up with music with my Dad’s legend of playing at Woodstock with Ten Years After, my brother’s passion for all things music, and my sister’s grade 8 classical piano in the background.

It must have skipped over me, and I hit the decks to ruin already quite bad 1990’s house music.

But perhaps this is my connection to it. Exploring wine through the metaphor of music. The literal and metaphorical “notes”, that builds a vernacular to be more creative and insightful in producing wine.

Or maybe it’s just a father complex.