And the Water in All This...

And the Water in All This...

Water: the source of life

Since our return to Alsace ten years ago, my wife Céline, my daughter Zoé and I never tire of walking the countless hiking trails that crisscross the Vosges, often offering breathtaking panoramas of the mountains and the Alsace plain. On the days when the sky is at its purest, even the snow-covered summits of the Alps can be seen in the distance on the horizon.

On these numerous hikes, one simple thing always delights me: sipping the crystalline water direct from the source. This got me thinking a bit more about water and its role in wine.

Starting in the Munster Valley, with its cool forest and its mosses covering the path, you quickly arrive to an open landscape of fields where the cows graze, the same cows which give us the fragrant cheese which bears the name of the valley. Heading towards the summit of the Gaschney peak, we see some “ferme-auberges”, farm/restaurants offering hikers a rustic and authentic gourmet break created from the produce of the farm.

It is here that, at the bend in the trail, a spring flows abundantly winter through summer. Each time I come to this spot, something special happens, something which took me some time to realize.

At each stop at this place on my hikes, I drink the water that pours out of the ground and then I fill up my water bottle to make this simple pleasure last even longer. I feel a deep sense of fulfillment and well-being when drinking this water.

This particular water is not just two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen. It is obvious that this water is much more special than our tap water, although ours is of good quality (a luxury nowadays!). It is also much better than any bottled water.

Is it a question of minerals or its purity? I don't think so. It’s a question of energy rather, of vibration... in any case something inexplicable like that. It's impossible for me to pass by this spring without drinking from it, a bit like those cherries I see hanging from the trees on our walks, impossible for me not to pick a few from each tree on my way past. These cherries have something special that even the best ones, organic and bought at the farmers market, just simply do not have. Perhaps an extra freshness? Maybe. But I think it goes deeper than that.

Matter, whether it is water or cherry, is not only made of matter. It is also made of emptiness and energy that binds each of these atoms together. And I have the feeling that the molecules of this water, which springs directly from the ground, is much more in vibration than the water that is collected, filtered, treated, stored, before being injected into the pipes that finally flows to my tap.

I would be unable to put forward any scientific explanation. But the perception is so strong for me that none are needed to convince me.

I assure you, we are going to talk about how this relates to wine.

A Chance Meeting

A few months ago, I met a very influential Parisian wine merchant, Bruno Quenioux, and subsequently read his book "La Vie Mystérieuse du Vin". He was an early believer in the esoteric winemakers who have since become stars. Let's say it right away: his vision of wine would disconcert those whose approach is purely scientific, technical and Cartesian. Instead, he has a cultural, anthropological and sometimes even mystical look at wine.

Entering his wine shop for the first time ("Philovino", 6 Place d'Estienne d'Orves in Paris), I carefully studied his very nice selection (Trapet from Bourgogne, Labet from the Jura, Fosse-Sèche from the Loire, but also a very interesting and thoughtful selection of Greek wines, among many others gems). Then the discussion starts.

I ask him for his guiding principle. His vision of wine. And there, he tells me, among other things, that "for me, one of the most important things and that we find in all great wines, is the trace of water".

Curious, I tried to get him to explain what he was saying. He continued by saying that the wines he was looking for were wines that, on the finish, left a sensation of purity and crystallinity in the mouth, not unlike spring water. I start to follow him. Then he evokes the fact that the water contained in the wine is not neutral. That it, too, has a vibration, that it has the memory of the soil it has crossed before being absorbed by the vine and transmitted to its fruit. He tells me about these heavy wines marked not by water but by "fire", about producers who “are afraid of emptiness and feel obliged to concentrate the matter of their wines”. Wines, he feels, that are tiring to the palate.

Uhhhh! Esoteric nonsense? Maybe. In any case, I had the feeling that he had put his finger on something essential. Because, I must say, if I think about the wines that give me the most emotion, the ones I always try to have in my cellar... I believe that indeed, on the finish, there is something like water, like a breath, a vibration, a freshness, a purity that brings me back to the photo below taken five years ago with my daughter at the very special spring at the top of Mount Gashney. This photo is in the background on my cell phone. Unconsciously, this moment, which seems so insignificant, brings me back to something as essential as water is to life.

Julien and his daughter

This idea of "water in wine" had been running through my head for some weeks, when something surprising occurred during a tasting club meeting. One of our members enthusiastically raved about a splendid wine saying: "there is water in this wine!” He and I had never talked about this concept. Since then, when we taste together and there is "water in the wine", our eyes meet and we know that we have been touched by that same breath.

We all know that approximately 85% of wine is water, but I am not speaking literally here. By “water in wine”, I do not mean “watery” or the “water component” in wine. Far from it. I am referencing the vibrancy that comes from running water…that kinetic energy that seems held within the very water molecules themselves. It is a well-spring of dynamism that cannot be captured by the written word. It needs to be experienced.

If you are open to the idea, at your next wine tasting, tell me if you come across a wine that energizes you with its water! If you don't look for it, you won't find it, so please do! I'm curious to hear your feedback on the WSG Community.

Julien Camus

Founder & President @ Wine Scholar Guild

Julien worked as Trade Attaché for wines and spirits at the French Embassy in Washington DC (2004-2006). In this role, he recognized the need for French wine education as a means to spur consumer demand and interest in his country’s wines.

To that end, he founded the Wine Scholar Guild in August of 2005,an organization dedicated to the promotion of French wine and culture through education. Julien invited national importers of French wine to join the organization as Industry Members and 25 key French wine importers did so immediately.

After leaving the embassy, he has devoted his energies to developing the Wine Scholar Guild and its network of program providers around the globe. Julien holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration with a major in International Marketing from the Strasbourg Management School.

In 2019, Julien was one of the "Future 50" award winners, an award created by WSET and IWSC to acknowledge professionals under 40 who have made a significant contribution to the industry.

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