Tension

There are a multitude of factors that contribute to a bottle’s distinction including enigmatic elements such as context, history and personal palette. We can only express what we have experienced, and I interpret wine in terms of form and shapes- an architectural silhouette of liquid poetry. I am always in pursuit of authentically intuitive and inspired design, whether it be in design or wine. Grapes are very much like metal. The more metal is bent, twisted or manipulated, it becomes structurally weaker and mechanisms must be designed in to enhance its yield strength, ductility and structure. The same is true with winemaking practices.

 

One subjective divide that encapsulates many considerations is tension, which is critical for defining structure in wine. In architecture, there are two types of stress- compressive and tensile. In order for a structure to be sound, vertical supports must have compressive strength while beams must have good tensile strength. Although a beam is not experiencing pure tensile stress, its tensile strength ensures it will not buckle. Wine enthusiasts will agree that there is a “sweet spot” where all the elements of a wine come into balance and potentially opposing elements coexist in harmony. Tension involves two or more opposing forces acting in opposition to one another. These forces generate pull in the mouth and when suspended in an equipoised state, wine can achieve balance. Tension can be understood as structured complexity in both flavor and texture. Acidic wines may be balanced in sweetness, or alcohol may offset tannins. These structural tensions, like compressive and tensile stress, configure the first level of balance. Flavor derived tension are esoteric with fruit counterbalancing earthy tones, and spice lifting floral aromas. These notes and flavors, like building elements, codify terroir. In architecture and interior design, function elevates form.

I have a passion for pinot noir and tension is a necessary energy for producing balance between the just-ripe precipice of fruit, taut acid and savory tannins. I have yet encountered a pinot over 14% alcohol that upholds tension, despite a winemaker’s best efforts using whole cluster or acidity adjustments. If wine, or architecture, lacks tension there is an absence of a defined center. The wine is flabby and one dimensional like a 1980’s concrete institutional government building  with front facades that lack inspirational curiosity, or the 2000 Ch Durfort-Vivens with the aesthetic appeal of a hospital room. Not all wines can stand against a 2007 Roumier Chambolle-Musigny, but not all wines with tension are worth drinking either. Without tension and a focal point, it lacks the interesting intersection of balance between opposing forces. Whether you are crafting a building or creating a vintage, design is where art and science break even…

 

 

 

 

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