When Wine Is Out of Control
Vent y Tourne means “the wind turns.” The phrase, a clunky translation from French, is beguiling enough for a thousand words.
Literally, “the wind turns” describes a change in the weather, while metaphorically, the phrase speaks to the nature of our uncontrollable universe. If you know which way the wind blows, then you know if you can anticipate a situation. When the wind turns, you may not know what’s going to happen next.
Patrick Desplats’ Vent y Tourne, a red blend of who-knows-what grapes, hails from the Loire Valley. In Loire, lots of winemakers make “field blends” by throwing whatever grapes grow in a vineyard together to see what they make of it. The method may seem ridiculous for wine-drinkers who fetishize grape varieties, believing certain kinds prevail over others, and it may perplex those who want to know exactly what wine it is they are drinking. I mean, why wouldn’t you want to know?
When I first bought Vent y Tourne, I wanted to know what was in it. The label looked like it was photoshopped in MS Paint by a high school student in 2005. “Vin de france” is printed on the label’s top right, and on the bottom left, Patrick Desplats’ name shows in small lettering next to the hyper-specific 11.8% ABV marker. That’s all the wine tells me about itself. A Google search was hardly more illuminating. One site said it is a blend of Gamay, Pineau d’Aunis, and Cabernet Sauvignon, while other sites described it as a “rare red blend.” I asked a restaurant owner who sells Vent y Tourne what’s in it. He said it contains several grapes and has no idea what they are. Patrick Desplats has almost no internet presence, so I can’t look him up myself.
Enjoying a field blend like Vent y Tourne, much like making one, requires you to let go of the part of yourself that wants all of the answers, that feels compelled to classify and control your destiny.
So, I tasted Vent y Tourne with the idea that I was drinking “wine” and not a specific wine. I had never tasted such contained chaos before. The first sip bursted in my mouth with an assault of tannins, charcoal, and bitter raspberries. Then, most of the tannins disintegrated, like water dissolving on lava-hot pavement, leaving a film of sweet and bitter flavors on my tongue. It was like popping a tiny water balloon in my mouth. Despite all of this, the wine drank light. It was nothing like the kind of dry, jammy bombs you encounter in some Bordeaux blends, in which the tannins stick to your gums like glue. Vent y Tourne somehow managed to be easy to drink and explosive at the same time. Quite a feat. And what I loved most about it was the moment I first swished a sip of the wine into my mouth — that meteor crash of bitter and sweet, which ends so suddenly, like a moment passing by.
All of this is to say, the flavor profile of the wine matches its name. While the phrase, “the wind turns,” describes a moment of uncontrollable elements in a state of movement, the wine, Vent y Tourne, is the product of uncontrolled winemaking, of throwing who-knows-what grapes together. When I drank it, every sip tasted alive and active, like when a geyser erupts, or when the wind turns.
Did Desplats intend for the wine to taste like this? Or is it simply a product of the elements: soil, sun, rain, wind, and yeast? This unknown wine asks more questions than it answers.
I often wonder how much of my life is the result of circumstances I couldn’t control. I appreciate a wine that wonders the same.
- Producer: Patrick Desplats
- Grape varieties: No idea…it’s a field blend.
- Region: Loire Valley
- Country: France
- Taste words: Raspberries, blackberries, charcoal, pencil shavings, tannins, explosive
- A water balloon pops in your mouth.