Structure, Muscularity, Precision, & Wine. (And The Jazz!)

I must say, I quite enjoyed today a playful e-mail rally (as in the tennis sort; back and forth and back and forth and back and forth) with my friend Richard Jennings, who just happens to be not only one of the best wine bloggers going, but one of the best wine writers out there, period.

(You can find his blog here:

And as an aside, are we perhaps finally to the point where, at least in some cases, we need not draw the distinction any longer? Is James Laube a wine magaziner? Is Steve Heimoff a wine print mediaer?

Which is not at all what I meant to be writing about, so back to my e-mail serve-and-volley with Richard. We were discussing, or might I even say sparring, over the question of structure in wine; how to define it, quantify it, measure it, describe it, parse it.

To say a wine has structure is to say what?

And if it’s structured, what is it?

Is it strong? Is it powerful? It is muscular?

Or are we talking components, the building blocks? Is it tannic, acidic, alcoholic?

Or are we with the blues and abstract truth? Is it destined for a lifetime of development, due to factors both intangible and tangible; factors which are threaded to the fabric of its essence?

Is it big?

At play in the fields of my thesaurus, I set upon a stump and thought on POWER.

Is to be structured to be powerful?

Oh, but all the myriad elusive hues of power!

From my correspondence with Richard today:

“…intensity via complexity, subtlety, and precision; more of a Rinzai Zan quietude than a bombastically Western pontificatoriness …”

“…I think of power, certainly, but only as it relates to precision, focus, clarity, and sophistication. It’s the power of the guru more than the soldier …”

And revisiting this now, I am struck by myself that I should be thinking on quietude, precision, and power on the very same day we mark the birth of one of the true under-the-radar greats of the jazz guitar, Mr. Tal Farlow.

‘Twas July 7th, 1921 that The Octopus (his nickname) was born into this world, and it was 21 years from then that first he took up a guitar; a moment pregnant with import for our ears and our souls.

Tal Farlow did not assault you with technique; he had it in spades, but he deployed it with diplomacy. He did not bury you with volume; he could dig, but he did so with discretion. He was clean, he was precise, he was powerful.

For a lovely audio sampler of his playing (with a few pics on top), please check out the following:

When I think of structure, this is what I think about; I think about clarity, focus, control, precision, intensity, compression, concentration.

I think about a fierce elegance, a restrained mammalian fervor, a dynamic tension in beatific repose; coiled, taut, poised, possessed.

To say a wine has structure is to say what?

Richard and I were debating descriptors as applied to Monte Bello, and so perhaps I can rephrase the question above in honor of our debate:

To say the Monte Bello is structured is to say what?

And I close with two wine koans:

What moves, the wine, or the mind?

How can I show you Wine unless you first empty your cup?

Sit. Close your eyes. Listen to Tal Farlow play “You And The Night And The Music.” Drink wine. Just you, the night, and the music.

And the wine.

Categories: Press Reviews, Social Media, Video, Wine & Music, Wine and Jazz, Wine Blogs, Wine Quotes

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