The ‘In Pursuit of Balance’ movement started by Raj Parr, Jasmin Hirsch and others declared recently that they were ceasing operations. Parr feels it’s gone as far I could: “It did what it did, open a dialogue. We don’t want to make it into a sales and market campaign. It never was that. A discussion has been started. We’ll see where it goes.”
Like all oppositional movements in wine, whether notional or not, it drew its fair share of controversy. It did however, draw attention to some superb food-friendly wine styles that really shone in the spot-light the movement provided.
Now, the best cool-climate styles in California take their place as some of the best wines in California full-stop. There is a recognition there that perhaps didn’t seem possible when they started. Were they a symptom or a cause? It’s difficult to say. There were certainly plenty of other influential voices. Equally, outside California, there was also a sense of rediscovery of traditional and native styles. Wineries like Lopez de Heredia were being re-discovered by a new generation seeking a change from the big and modern wines that were so so popular.
When I was in California last year asking Somms about the wine I should try, most of them mentioned Ceritas, a project started by John Raytek and his partner Phoebe Bass.
They source grapes from a variety of sites on the Sonoma Coast and the Santa Cruz mountains and look for cool-climate sites that can yield ripe fruit with elegant tannins and pure fruit.
Stylistically, they have much in common with the Grand Cru Chablis of Dauvissat and a softer version of the Volnay’s of Michel Lafarge
Their wines are only sold via a mailing list in the State’s and restaurant’s do all they can to get a case or two. Sam Bogue, wine director for the Ne Timeas Restaurant Group, which includes Flour + Water, Aatxe and Central Kitchen says: “We take all they allocate to us, and we’ll take anyone else’s allocation who doesn’t want it.”
There is certainly a lineage in these wines that you can trace through Arnot-Roberts, where Raytek used to work. A producer that still hugely excites me, ever since trying his pale coloured Trousseau when we pulled a bottle off t he first palate into the UK. I think John Raytek’s wines are every bit as exciting. So, it’s hugely exciting to be able to bring these wines into the country.
I’ve a lot of respect for what IPOB has done, and I think it reflects a lot of what winemakers just wanted to do. It was a natural re-adjustment to a period dominated by a lot of big (but not always unbalanced wines) When I visited Copain, Wells Gutherie said “You know, I would go into my cellar and just not want to drink any of the wines I made during that era”.
What ‘Balance’ is, and what constitutes ‘Natural’ is continually up for debate, and the wheel will constantly be spinning. I just hope the debate is done with a smile and a glass in hand. One style does not invalidate another, and as much as IPOB was about promoting a certain style of wines, most of the proponants would happily sing the virtues of ‘big’ wines like Chateauneuf, Port, Amarone and Priorat.