Monday, May 28, 2012

Rant: Where Is Wine Made?

Is wine made in the vineyard or the cellar?

On our first winery visit in the Chianti Classico region, we met Alessandro Gallo, the Direttore of Castello D'Albola, He spoke about the significant increase in the quality of Chianti Classico wines in the last fifteen years or so. That change is due to numerous factors but Alessandro had his own idea about what was the most significant change that led to the increased quality, a change of a particular mindset. He claimed that many wine makers once believed that wine was made in the cellars, but they have now come to believe that wine is made in the vineyards.

This belief is held by other wine makers across the world, yet some still cling to the former belief, that wine is mainly made in the cellar. It is obvious that both contribute to the creation of a wine, yet some will give higher priority to one over the other. It seems to be my experience that those who believe it is made in the vineyard do produce better wines. There are certainly exceptions but it seems to hold true as a general rule, in wine regions across the globe.

Why is this the case? Well, if you start with excellent ingredients, then your final product stands a better chance of being superior. So, if you have excellent grapes, it becomes much easier to make an excellent wine. If you feel that wine is made in the cellar, you may not pay as much attention to the ingredients, the grapes, and thus not worry as much about your vineyard. So, if you have a lesser quality ingredient, your product may not turn out as well. And if you try to make it so, you might have to manipulate it a great deal in the cellar.

Thus, the Chianti Classico producers shifted their attention back to the vineyards, back to the essential ingredients, and found it easier to make a quality wine from quality grapes. That should be a lesson to other wine producers, a reason for them to adopt a new paradigm and concern themselves much more with their vineyards rather than the cellar. Both are essential, but the new paradigm offers advantages which often lead to superior wines.

Do you agree or not?


Jason Phelps said...

The answer is both. And anyone who says otherwise is trying to ride the wave of trendy sentiment that is neither new nor accurate.

Grapes don't naturally want to become wine (thank you Adam Lee for that concise thought) so you have to work with them out in the vineyard and in the winery to coax out the attributes you wish most to see (not force) in the final product. How much effort is expended in either setting is dependent on lots of factors and is one of the reasons winemakers have difficult jobs.

Winemakers take steps outside and inside to achieve the results and won't lie about it so the conclusion makes decent sense.

The starting point of quality fruit is irrefutable, but it is afterall the starting point and not the end of the story for a particular vintage.

Hopefully people don't get distracted by the mixed message here.


suryaworld said...

Nice post. Thanks for sharing