Allen R. Balik recently wrote an article in the Napa Valley Register entitled “Is it about the vineyard or the winemaking?” That’s an often asked question. But, is it a good question or a bad question? I would say that it depends on your perspective. Here are some of the highlights of Allen’s article:
(To view the complete article “Is it about the vineyard or the winemaking” click here.)
Here is the view from the Underground:
Wines should speak for themselves. And I believe that people should drink what they like (to read that article click here).
That eliminates the “one size fits all” concept and widens the playing field. That is what we have today. But many wines are manipulated, over extracted (and sweet), overly alcoholic, and out of balance. And, rarely are consumers able to know the contents of what they are drinking. I believe that this is not a good thing and I am a strong advocate of ingredient labeling for all wines. This is based on my long standing belief that wine is a food product and should be treated as such (to read my article “What is Wine” click here). This is a basic premise of the Underground that we will stand behind until the implementation of ingredient labeling for wine is a reality.
But, putting aside the question of what is in wine for a moment, how do you decide what wine to drink? At the end of the day, for me, it is simple – do I like it? I like balanced harmonious wines. And, I want to know where the grapes come from. I believe strongly in the sense of place. After that, all that remains is “don’t screw it up” with too many gimmicks and intervention! So that certainly leaves room for the skills of a winemaker who makes sure that the grapes are the best they can be. That means spending a lot of time in the vineyard. And, once the grapes are harvested, for the winemaker to make the wine with a minimum of intervention. This work in the vineyard and minimal intervention in the wine making process is to me tried and true “old school.” For me, this recipe has produced the greatest wines over a long period of time. So was it the vineyard or the wine making for the great wines? Think of all the great wines you know. Name the vineyard that produced the grapes and the growers that tended the vines. Then name the winemaker that made the wines. In doing this you will come up with one way to look at the question as to what is more important.
For sure, great wines do not just happen. Great vineyards produce the grapes to make great wine. And, no great wine is possible without great grapes from great vineyards. Then there needs to be a knowledgeable person there to make sure the true expression of the grapes is manifest in the wine. No question, many historical growers and winemakers deserve accolades for making great wines following this recipe. And, today we have many such winemakers from many areas of the world. But, these people are not trying to reinvent the wheel to make a more extracted wine. They are following historical tried and true methods.
But, sadly, for others, they have chosen the other path to make more intense and extracted wines. This latter category includes some of the high profile types favored by the big numbers boys. That is why I cannot get behind the new wave of promoting “winemakers” who create wines with the sole purpose of making intense wines to satisfy the palates of the “sip and spit” critics (to see my article on this subject click here). In these wines the sense of place gets lost. The wines all start to morph together. They tend to be overpowering. So, I would go so far as to say that in this new wave of “celebrity” winemakers, many are as over rated and over hyped as the wines they make. For me, this is a negative and not a positive. And, just maybe, the word “make” is the operative word here. I believe that those who “make” over extracted, manipulated wines are not really skilled winemakers. Maybe they are chemists or manipulators or something else. You decide.
As for me, wine ingredient labeling will answer a lot of questions about the “winemakers”. I can hardly wait until the tide goes out and we get to see who’s swimming naked! It won’t be pretty, but at least the perpetrators will be exposed! The emperor has no clothes (to read my article on this subject click here)!
In Vino Veritas,