It happens. Not often, but it happens: Matt Kramer and I agree on a wine. In this case, three wines.
Kramer had just led a seminar of Portuguese and Spanish wines from terraced vineyards, and I complimented him on his wine selections, which momentarily caught him off balance.
"I'm happy," I offered in jest. "Your palate is really coming around."
I think that pleased him until he realized … he's not accustomed to me liking the same wines that he does. It's something we've come to appreciate over the years.
It's a friendly repartee; we've known each other for 30-plus years, tasted together on several occasions, share many viewpoints and enjoy when we agree to disagree, or even those rarer occasions when we fully agree.
Some of his past wine choices for his seminar have left me baffled, but that's the way wine goes. Everyone has his or her own tastes and perspectives. In fact, you only have your palate.
Our views and tastes are not only unique, but also reflective of where we come from. Kramer learned about wine as a Francophile—Burgundy was his library and laboratory. He is a more curious, adventurous taster than I am, and by that I mean he drinks from a wider circle of wines than I do, something that I admire about him. I taste in a narrower range, mostly California wines. We're looking for different things when it comes to wine.
Kramer prefers wines that are trim, higher in acidity and marked by minerality. I prefer fuller-bodied wines with ripe, expressive flavors. I like oak more than he does and value sleek, rich, textured wines, more in the plush, velour mouthfeel style.
Kramer doesn't much like flavor descriptors (the I Spy this fruit or that game), and his style of wine writing doesn't much call for them. If he did what I do, it would be different. He'd have a full fruit stand of superlatives.
The terms he uses most frequently are finesse, minerality, "crisp, refreshing acidity," because, he says, "I suspect that the word 'acidity' alone somehow—and wrongly—is perceived as a pejorative." He routinely turns to words such as originality (what I call distinctive), singular, austere (my flinty), silky, nuance (my subtle), layers, shadings and supple (some of my favorites, too). "Oddly," he said, "given all my writing on the subject, I almost never actually say 'sense of place,' although I might say a 'somewhere wine' as opposed to a 'nowhere wine.' I might even refer to an old juxtaposition I once coined about a 'wine of fear' versus a 'wine of conviction.'" We both have a thorough appreciation for tannins.
I share this moment in the spirit of a longstanding wine affiliation, with someone I respect because he does his homework and delves into his subject with great passion. It's even better on the rare occasions we embrace the same wines, as we did this past Saturday.