Don’t Mess With Mother Nature
Being reminded of the guy whom sits in the meeting with his fellow peers being asked by the boss for opinions to move the company forward leads me to a story. You see one such employee before the meeting confides with another, an idea that would hands down make things better and just what the powers to be need for improving productivity. Of course this person is too shy to blurt out this idea, However his confidant who is much more aggressive has little problem in doing so, afterward applauded. Yes an idea stolen never to be returned, taking credit and leaving the quiet skilled employee in the wake of a false front.
I will start with this premise, Wine makers aren’t that important. In fact they are nothing more than manual labor with some basic chemistry knowledge and most importantly some common sense.
Ego’s in the Wine business are as big as any other industry and maybe even larger than most! Yes articles written about us, interviews, even autograph’s if you can believe that, roll out the red carpet. I have heard things like Wine is Art, Maybe, but this can’t be the the same as Rembrandt, Depp, Springsteen, or Mozart. We can’t really be that vain can we? It is true Wine has been with us for thousands of years. It is part of culture and can be poetry in a glass. But wines are not created by wine makers, they are made in The Vineyard, period, end of story. Now we can be good stewards of the fruit we receive and we can have vision however bad grapes make bad wine, and good grapes Can make good wine.
A good steward of grapes means you take what’s given and do the best you can trying your hardest to stay out of the way. If all the hard work was done in the vineyard you have a better chance to be successful in the winery. But what does that mean? Well we need to plant the proper clones, in the proper place, with the proper spacing. We need to leaf, drop fruit at the proper times, spray the proper aerosols all when needed. The work in the vineyard far exceeds that in the winery. It is a year worth of work for one harvest. It ends, then it begins again. Winery work is Harvest, then bottling. Yes there is topping, sulfuring, racking, but with an awful lot of down time.
A wine maker does need vision, that which has an end result. He strives for a certain house style so to speak. Baselines are set and improved on, from years of tweaking. Yes people whom use cultivated yeast can change yeast, can change barrels, they can do a number of things to change the basic baseline. However, the grapes from the vineyard dictate your actions. You are a slave to the final harvest and in that you do the best you can. Now if you are proactive, getting in the vineyard, you can help guide the outcome, coming closer to the vision you once strived. I will interject that a vision can be realized from multiple tastings, improving your palate. More winemakers should taste those great wines that came before them. Now most of us can’t afford DRC, Lafite, or Guigal, I certainly can’t anymore, but there are alternatives. Those that came before you whom used those wines when they were somewhat affordable to guide their path. In them one may find a vision to strive for and using more than one wine or a combination of labels might achieve that goal. You cannot make great wine if one does not recognize great wine!
The Greatest wine makers are those that let their wines speak volumes for themselves and answer questions when presented. They work hard in the vineyard, they receive their bounty and they use common sense and minimize interference. Walking through a group of high end producers can be daunting, all taking their pats on the back for excellence and brilliance. Ego maniacs puffing out their chest and looking around comparing their hat size. Diva’s All! Some looking down on fellow wine makers whom are up and coming, and many in the public whom could never hope to enjoy one of those bottles like second class citizens. Yuk, is all I have to say. Instead of sharing, and moving those people forward they take the opposite trek, demeaning them as if this will make them feel better and improve market share. I don’t want to imply this is always the case, many great wine makers are gentle and good people. I could name many here, but all have one thing in common, great vineyards and that’s where the focus will always be!
I will end this blog by saying this, more education need be done. After it will be easier to spot a great bottle of wine, not by label but by place. There are many wine makers whom give false information, both on the bottle and when asked. I say why, if you make a wine a certain way then wear it as a badge of honor and be honest. The Great Vineyard’s in the world are a combination of hard work, proper planning, and Terroir, as well as proven practices handed down through the years. From them do we salute the effort, and from them we enjoy the bounty.
So when some bloviating wine maker tells you it’s him, stop and ask if he’s the vineyard manager, if not ask for that guys autograph it’s the real thing.