A wine manifesto

a wine manifesto

So, here is my wine manifesto. The idea for putting together this document came to me while I was sitting in Bar t’at in Ilkley on Wednesday, and I finished it on the train home yesterday.

It’s an act of arrogance and folly, perhaps, to generate a manifesto like this. But I wanted to capture in short bullet points some of the thoughts I have about wine: where it is now, how it can be better, how we should understand it, and how it can be better appreciated.

It’s controversial, and you may well disagree with it. But I hope that it provokes some thought, and perhaps even some discussion.

What is YOUR wine manifesto?

You can access it here, or by clicking on the image above.

23 comments to A wine manifesto

  • That sums up my attitude to wine, I agree 99% ! Interesting exercise Jamie. I am glad you brought up yearly variation, it is so pitiful to see some people actively seek only the star vintages of a wine – what is the winemaker supposed to do the other years, starve? ;-)

  • Christopher Wilton

    Thanks for this, Jamie. An important, intriguing exercise. #6 The little winemakers! #25 Was just reflecting upon this – we are so generally focused upon olfaction, we forget that the structure of a wine is all mouthfeel. Cheers!

  • Love it Jamie, from 9 or so you really got me going, couldn’t agree more! Only exception – I’m not a beer person, I’d rather drink mineral water though if the wine is commercial. Gets me into quite a spot in the Nordic countries. People think I judge their wine choice. I don’t. If they drink commercial wine styles they are not drinking vodka and they are one step closer to being lured over to the beautiful world of authentic wine ;) keep up the good work!

  • Agreed with Mike above. It’s an exercise well worth undertaking. To which i would like to add – Your observation from Point 25 did strike me…no word about glass. When it’s well documented the role they play in enhancing Texture, mouthfeel, elegance, finesse – and the overall mouthfeel. This isn’t a critic, but a point that I would add in my final manifesto if I did ever write one. Thanks for the stimulus!

  • Richard Holmes

    Jamie, I think you’ve captured the essence of what anyone who is passionate about wine believes – people who think of wine as more than just an “alcoholic beverage” or as a brand choice they might make like choosing between a Ford and a BMW.

    I’m sure there’s plenty of room to disagree about what “commercial” or “uncommercial” means in wine: I don’t think they necessarily equate to good or bad. Sure, jammy, acidified Aussie reds are the wine equivalent of a Big Mac but I suspect there is a good reason why heavily oxidised styles of white wine aren’t more popular.

    I’ve read a good deal of the to and fro between you and Robert Joseph regarding natural wines, as opposed to “commercial” interventionist winemaking, and while I agree that less is often more when it comes to expressing the origins of wine, I can say unequivocally as a member of the paying public (rather than in the trade) that I am reluctant to take the risk of buying what are marketed as natural wines, which may prove (based on limited experience) to be either underwhelming or downright unpleasant when first opened (which is when I will be drinking them – not two days later).

  • Jamie,
    great,
    I m completely agree with many of the points you r talking. Unfortunately, not many people realises and not many people see it. EDUCATION ON WINE. Many winegrowing, importers, and even wine writers thinks that bad wine is good wine, and try to confince you about that with terroir histories or new cement tanks or whatever. Frustrating sometimes.

    Best

    Pedro

  • Beautiful sentiments Jamie, and all (to my mind) truisms.

    Authenticity and somewhereness have so much more value than glossiness…

    Less is so often more…

    Sometimes it is better just to have a beer…

    keep the faith,

    Tim

  • Very good, Jamie. I can see the progression in your head from one point to the next!
    One query. #10 and #12 you refer only to red wines. Don’t you have problems with whites? Mine would be over-oaked, over-worked and over-sweet (where the default should be dry).

  • I should have changed my website address. Hope the new one reflects now.

  • I really like point #20 in your wine manifesto, it has some humor in it, and at the same time it gives us hope and motivation to keep drinking and pursuing the best possible next bottle! Thanks for sharing this with us. Cheers!

  • #26 – share great wine
    #27 – serve it properly, glass, temperature, food
    #28 – give wine a bit of age. too many, too young.
    #29 – amongst friends, wine is not a competition or test
    #30 – seek out wine with “tension”, you’ll know it when you find it

  • joão roseira

    Hey Jamie,

    very fine reading, should i write (head)mouthfeel, elegance & finesse? :D
    your manifesto is dense while being so light! and, i for one, love your humor in the face of a serious subject.

    as a guy that is growing grapes and making wine, in Portugal (a country that is undergoing a bad, very bad?, crisis), i must state that it has been very hard to work by your guidelines.
    For a number of reasons.
    Normal people have less money to spend in wine as we had to pay (in large scale), are paying and will be paying for all the problems in the financial system. A big part of our (as a citizen of an european country) effort, work, life, goes to paying interest to international bankers. Also, as the whole planet as not change paths and as we can not agree on an agenda for the long term, company’s profit is not based on sustainable pratices, one can be poisoning everything around and still take home millions. Add to these that commercial wine (as it can be cheap an trick drinkers into thinking it is real) makes for an unfair competition (just imagine if you would have to put in the label that the strawberry aromas in your wine come from the use of the yeast XXXX). Maybe it can be summed up in this question: how many wine drinkers are willing to buy real wine at a premium price?
    Let me give a simple example (even if a specific situation is not the whole picture it can help to explain what i feel): the cost of organic viticulture weed-control in an old vineyard in the Douro Valley can cost (depending on the year’s conditions) up to €2/bottle. But as you know, i remember your posts from your recent holiday in Algarve, the price of lots of Douro wines that one can find drinkable are just a bit more than those €2!
    Can you ask (or even expect) a portuguese family of 4 (if they’re age is 25-35, 50% chances that one of them is out of job, 100% sure that their salary has been cut [by taxes or just plain reduction of pay] by 10% or more over the last 3 years) to go buy the €10 real wine bottle when the €3-5 are so attractive?
    Do not forget that just a very small number of real wines get to be praise by people like you, that a lot of wine writers don’t really give a shit and the wine trade is more and more in the hands of distribution giants.

    I like beer too, but i think that you failed to mention that it is just like wine! Please do not give me the industrial, fabricated, artifitial ones! The microbrewery phenomen is one of the great things that happened lately in the agro-industry.

    More precisely on your numbers, they’re not all equally important, i know you know that white and pink and orange exist, cépage is never mentioned but is important.

    Great work.
    Salutti del Douro,
    joão roseira

  • Pat F

    I would include clear expression of varietal character in item # 2

  • Perfect!

    That’s why I’ve been reading your articles for over 10 years.

  • Spot on with #25 – I’ve always thought mouth-feel is the gateway for people to understand wine. And really when you’re drinking wine, especially with food it’s the mouthfeel that you’re concerned about.

    One of the most interesting pieces you’ve written.

  • PAGING JAMES HALLIDAY: Read number 10, mate.

  • Sean

    So many pretentious people involved in the wine industry, none more so than wine writers, you guys take all the fun out of wine. 5 years ago the wines you now call overextracted overipe and spoofy would have garnered top marks. Bloody fashion.

  • Rab

    Your 19th point seems to be the most relevant

  • Point 3 opens the door for appreciation of the wonderful role of diversity in wine styles. And then points 9 and 10 ram that door shut on a certain end of the spectrum. Some people enjoy ripe “monsters” and happen to find them serious, and I think those who value elegance in wine shouldn’t be quite so condescending about it.

    Personally, I considered myself lucky that I can enjoy many different styles of wine without the need to dismiss too many – notable exception NZ sauvignon blanc ;)

    I agree with many of the other points.

  • A great document, Jamie! As huge supporters of organic and natural winemaking, we particularly agree with #2, #4 and #16.

  • David Crossley

    Jamie, as always this is clear thinking and a great manifesto. My only quibble is perhaps with “5″. Some wines are worth writing about because they taste amazing, but subjectively there are people doing interesting things in interesting places, perhaps not yet making great wines but promising to, one day. Some will dismiss these wines, as they dismiss (say) “natural” wines, but there is often a value in discussing them even when the old adage “it’s not that it’s done well, but that it’s done at all” applies. For many wines started out like that (let’s use the example of German Pinot Noir, but one could substitute many more) but from those small acorns something more serious grew.

  • Bob Parsons

    I posted the manifesto on WLDG over here and the thread has been quite busy with plenty of discussion and differing opinions.

  • wow, too much information overload! I’m just back from the EWBC/DWCC in Rioja last weekend where I had long chats with Robert Joseph and Clarke Smith and Tim Hanni among others about wine and winemaking and my head is still spinning! I think I need to go out and really drunk and when I wake up it will never have happened! I did manage to inveigle my way into the after-parties (thanks to my good looks and charismatic personality of course, and nothing at all to do with the interesting and much sought-after natural, orange amphora-fermented Malvar, and terroir expressing Airén which I took along with me! ha ha!), but I didn’t get drunk enough! I personally like this manifesto http://saignee.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/day-6-the-official-fourteen-point-manifesto-on-natural-wine/ better and to which I’ve added my own 15th bullet point: “I have the right to delete, add to or modify any of the above-mentioned 14 Points, based on how I happen to be feeling at any given time. So there!”.

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