Friday, February 10, 2012

Why do you do what you do? (a question for professionals)

Why do you make wine - and make it in the way you do? Or choose and sell wine that somebody else has made? Beyond doing so as a way to pay your bills? (Please ponder your answer and scroll down)
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Okay, to my mind, there's only one top level answer:

"to give somebody something they - and possibly their friends/family around them - are going to enjoy drinking, and for a price they think reasonable".

Everything beyond that - thoughts such as "expressing the terroir of my region" should be secondary. Because, if it isn't a pleasurable drink, why should anyone but the most obsessive wine geek, care about the terroir?

If this seems a little simplistic to you, I'm sorry, but I think it raises some pretty fundamental questions. If you're faced with a rainy, cold vintage, do you avail yourself of the 15% allowance to make your wine prettier? If you've made your first pure Sangiovese or Gruner Veltliner in a place where it's never been grown before, and it's pleasant enough but one-dimensional, do you simply bottle it and sell it for a (relatively high) price that reflects your costs of production, or do you decide not to sell this vintage (blending it instead into something else)? Or improve it by adding a small dose of something else?

Most winemakers I know prefer to follow the purist line, allowing their customers to experience the unripe grapes or simple flavours. But why? If they were cooks they would be a lot less happy to send out a dish they knew to be sub-standard. There aren't many restaurants where waiters say "Sorry if the steak's tough, but that was the best the butcher could provide".

In the old days, when there were far fewer regions and far fewer decent vintages, second-rate wine was something people often had to put up with. Today, no one needs to drink - or eat - anything they don't enjoy.

Food - and drink - for thought.

6 comments:

  1. Very True.

    I will often find some single vintage wines (while more expensive) not as enjoyable as the less expensive "estate blend". Sure the former shows the terroir but may be less balanced or less enjoyable in the process.

    In the end people drink (buy) wine they like and as this is a business the last time I looked, you have to provide what the consumer enjoys, at a price they are prepared to pay.

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  2. Truth all you said, but people often buying wine because of the story behind the maker and not because of the wine in the bottle. That is the reason why the wine makers do such things.

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  3. Thank you Ivo, but while this often said, I would like to see evidence of it happening in the retail environments where most purchases are made. I also question why the story behind the wine should be more important than the enjoyability of the wine. I don't go to restaurants because of the history of the chef. I don't eat particular cheese because of the character of the cheese maker. For wine producers to claim that they and their product are different seems to be arrogant. But that's just my view.

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  4. Love it, Robert. Just love it!

    Agreed completely with your article, and comments. I do agree that a winemaker with character will attract me to sample his/her wine. But just because a winemaker might share my passion for... eg. cooking on a barbeque with his/her grape-vine cuttings; doesn't mean that I'll like the wine they make.

    This is where I think the wine sector misses the point: There is big difference between capturing someone's attention and becoming a customer. Sure, a story is interesting. But if that's all you've got - I can always read it in a book, or an e-reader.

    Make wine that (enough) PEOPLE like to drink - Wine marketing 101.

    Thanks Robert!

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