“I believe that the great wines of the world should be both. They should be wines of style, and they should be wines of place” Cathy Corison, Winemaker
The French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus held that modern life is inherently irrational. To his mind, 20th Century life offered no spiritual horizon of meaning. With nothing in the great beyond to hope for, the material world and this mortal coil are all we poor souls can have and know. This is one of the guiding principles of the philosophical school of Absurdism. As much as I would like to reject this idea, every now and then a story comes along that makes me think Camus was on to something.
Here within let me tell you the tale of a wine called Pangaea, the latest bit of news to drive a coach-and-four through to my faculty of reason.
“Pangaea, Wine of the World” to give its full title, is a Bordeaux-style blend with the 5 grapes being sourced individually from 5 different countries from vineyards of unknown provenance. Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley, Merlot from Bordeaux, Malbec from Argentina, Cabernet Franc from South Africa, and Petit Verdot from Spain is as specific as the producers have allowed themselves to be. With prices quoted at north of an eye-watering €600 per bottle, one hopes that a large part of your outlay will go towards offsetting the carbon footprint of this beast. Each bottle weighs in around the 1kg mark I should add. Innumerous air-miles will have to be clocked up between somewhere in Bordeaux, somewhere in Napa, somewhere in Argentina, somewhere in South Africa and somewhere in Spain. In the parlance of our times, this project can at best be described as ecologically tone deaf.
Completely unnecessary and yes, absurd. Camus wryly smiles.
There is a very healthy nature versus nurture debate within the wine world. Is great wine made in the vineyard or the winery? Which plays the bigger part, the methods and standards of the wine maker or the parcel of land from whence it came? Pangaea swipes left on both ideas. It is not a wine made to a personal philosophy since each winery will have an individual head winemaker fashioning his stamp and standards. It is also not a wine of terroir since its label “wine of the world” is too vague to be serviceable in that regard.
While pupils in the School of Absurdism may hold that life is utterly chaotic, disruption is not an end in itself. It’s a process that occasionally leads to something greater than the sum of its parts. The wine itself will probably be very good, maybe even spectacular. But since our ethics, expectations and experience play a large part in determining the quality of a wine, I would be very surprised that any critic of note will deign to give any vintage of this a 100-point score.
Then again, absurdity abounds.