Wine Talk with Alice Swift
In Pursuit of Balance Ceases Operations in November, 2016
For those of you who have not heard of In Pursuit of Balance IPOB, it was an organization established a little over 5 years ago, by Rajat Parr of Domaine de la Côte and Sandhi Wines and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards. It all began with a conversation at the famed RN74 in San Francisco. Parr, the restaurant’s wine director at the time, was discussing with Hirsch about how their wines were so different from other comparable wines of the time.
The goal was exactly as the organization name states—to pursue balance. IPOB sought to produce wines with an authentic and true expression of place, to genuinely represent the term “terroir.” Rather than catering wine styles to the demands of the consumer, Parr and Hirsch sought out the Old World style of winemaking, focusing on the natural process and bringing out the classic varietal characteristics of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Balance is key to all great wines, and the IPOB Manifesto of Balance explains it well, “a wine is in balance when its diverse components—fruit, acidity, structure and alcohol—coexist in a manner such that should any one aspect overwhelm or be diminished, then the fundamental nature of the wine would be changed.” see http://bit.ly/2iraHgd for the full manifesto
The non-profit organization was established to hone in on wine producers who sought the same goal of balance in their wines. Annually, wine producers submitted their wines to a blind tasting panel made up of a committee of wine professionals in order to be accepted into the IPOB list of members. From there, a series of annual wine seminars and tasting events were held throughout the U.S. and internationally, showcasing wines from the approved members. These “balanced” wines truly epitomized where they came from, with lower alcohol levels and a less demand-driven style. While the intent was never meant to stir up controversy, there were definitely opinions on both sides of the argument from many acclaimed voices.
The great thing about this organization was that this non-profit highlighted wineries that were smaller family-owned and -operated establishments that might not achieve the recognition of the other big name labels. The latest IPOB 2016 Member Wineries list included 36 wineries, with producers such as Drew Family Cellars, Hanzell Vineyards, LIOCO, Littorai, Wenzlau Vineyard, and Wind Gap Wines.
In mid-2016, Hirsh and Parr announced that they would be closing operations of the IPOB organization at the end of 2016. The goal was to “change the dialogue around the meaning and importance of balance in California wine,” said Hirsch, and they have truly attained this goal. November 14, 2016 was the final IPOB event, which ended at the same restaurant where it all began, at RN74.
Who best to conclude this article and the close of In Pursuit of Balance than with Jasmine Hirsch explaining their decision to cease operations? Hirsch says it best:
“We created IPOB at a time when this conversation was not taking place on a broad and public level. We achieved what we intended—to bring the debate around balance and winemaking styles to the forefront of the wine community. This debate will continue in California and around the world, and it is by no means finished. We wanted to end on a high note, and the impact of the IPOB events held around the globe this past year shows that our message is resonating solidly in the wine trade as well as with consumers. This discussion about balance and wine’s place at the dinner table has become a common part of the conversation about California wine all over the world.” http://bit.ly/2hvcFNb
To Jasmine Hirsch and Rajat Parr, I personally have had the opportunity to attend one of your events during the Vegas Uncork’d event in 2015 see image and truly respect the passion you have for the cause. Thank you for your contributions to the wine industry, and I hope that the conversation around the pursuit of balance will continue to permeate throughout the industry.
Until next month, Cheers~!