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Attention Holding

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I had the 1994 Niebaum-Coppola Claret last night -- a pretty good $13 bottle, all things considered -- and in the process clarified some of my thoughts about what it is that I am looking for in wines these days. The quality that I think I am looking for is the ability of the wine to hold my attention. This is not any one aspect of the wine and has only a bit to do with the strictly technical merits of the wine, much like it does in music.

It might be a particularly rich and complex bouquet that causes one to pause each time before sipping as if wondering whether actually drinking the wine was necessary step. It might be a particularly opulent richness to the fruit which made it seem as if the wine came in little berries that burst across the tongue with a rush of flavor when broken. It might be a lingering aftertaste of special elegance which causes one to stop and savor its echos. It might be as simple as a quality of perfect balance which causes one to think only of the taste of the wine as a whole, struggling to isolate any one piece because of the close harmony.

Price or even quality in the usual sense is not a good predictor of this quality of holding one's attention. One can have a perfectly crafted wine, appreciated as such, which however lacks this quality and it becomes like a well-executed song of forgettable melody, gone as soon as it is over. One can also have a wine which is simple or even with detectable shortcomings, but something about it that causes one to notice, with enjoyment, each sip. A simple folk tune with a catchy melody can be like this.

To me, the Alluvium was like this. Perhaps, matched side by side with real Pomerols I would have found that it came up short, but its enormously rich nose caused me to pause before each sip and its explosive, opulent fruit blocked out the conversation momentarily.

In the software patterns community, derived from Alexander's work in architecture, they speak of the Quality Without A Name or QWAN. Being QWAN, no one quite succedes in defining it, but it seems to me that there is a similarly between this concept and what I am babbling on about here. Holding attention is just one property, one way of noticing or identifying that QWAN, but it is at least a hint to me of what it is I am looking for.

I suppose I should go back in the cage now...