Wines of passion 

When every bottle is a different colour

As the years tick by and the tastings, dinners, lunches and meetings pile up, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no longer any meaningful relationship between the price of wine and its quality. When I ask the people who sell wine for a living about why prices seem to be constantly on the rise for everything from California cult wines and super-Tuscan reds to the latest from the Okanagan to fancy Bordeaux the answer is always the same — there is no “real” price for wine anymore.

If it’s true that making a great (in every sense of the word) wine for $10 or $20 is next to impossible, all that changes at $30 or $40. Anything is possible at plus-$30; the only trick is to sort out the pretenders from the players. For many consumers that task is next to impossible in a wine store and only slightly easier in the glass. For the best results my advice is to follow the passionate producers.

To that point, often while visiting what are considered some of the “best” wineries in the world, I spot photos of the owner standing with California icon Robert Mondavi. When I inquire as to how the photo came about, inevitably the story goes something like this: "We met Robert Mondavi years ago while he was touring our region and he (Mondavi) convinced us to pursue our passion and dreams to produce high quality wine."

For just as many years I marvelled at Mondavi’s ability to figure out which people in each region had the right piece of dirt and the potential to make great wine. Then the penny dropped.

It turns out Mondavi was always attracted to the driven, passionate people. He may not have known what the future held for any of these aspiring wine growers, but he was damned sure that great wine is always made by the most passionate people, and that’s how he sorted them out.

I’ve looked back over my notes from the last year in search of the most passionate people I’ve met and I’ve connected that to a specific wine, hoping to share with you bottles you can count on to deliver.

First up is Pascal Jolivet, a Frenchman from the Loire Valley with a burning desire to convert everyone he meets to a committed sauvignon blanc drinker. His regular Pouilly Fumé, and Attitude label are terrific choices but his passion is the mineral scented Pascal Jolivet 2006 Sancerre ($38). Buy it, cellar it, drink it and revel in Jolivet’s ability to produce delicious white wine with seamless acidity.

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