One of the thrills of writing about wine, apart from getting paid to do my hobby, is that I get to meet my wine heros. And last night, for the first time, I got to meet Randall Grahm.
It was a dinner at Artisan and Vine (a natural wine bar in Clapham) hosted by wine tasting company Wine Unearthed. Randall was thoroughly entertaining, and as well as talking us through his wines, he did a couple of readings from his book, Been Doon So Long.
Full write up to follow. For now, some classic Randall:
On Cigare Volant, his flagship wine: ‘I started out trying to make Châteauneuf du Pape. I don’t even like Châteauneuf du Pape, but I do like Burgundy.’
On reduction: ‘One way I think of reduction in wine is like horniness in guys. It can be a little off-putting at times but it is a sign that they system is working the way it should.’
On cool climate viticulture: ‘A cool climate for me is also an appropriate climate. The grapes come in balanced. You don’t need to acidulate or dealcoholize the wine. If you have to manipulate the wine, this suggests that you are not growing the grape in the right places.’
‘Not all vineyard sites are created equal. Not all vineyard sites are good for grapes!’
On terroir: ‘The notion of terroir is the most beautiful idea in wine lore. A true vin de terroir needs a good rooting system. Terroir is a radio signal, and it is a question of the signal to noise ratio. We want to amplify the signal without distorting it. For example, if you restrict yields in a deeply rooted vineyard, you amplify the signal. Drip irrigation dilutes the signal. The ratio of roots to fruit is probably the single greatest determinant of wine quality.’
On the California wine industry: ‘The wine industry is a sort of disaster now – a victim of its success. When I got started, people did it because they loved it. It’s now a business, and too much money is invested in it. It has given the business a loss of self confidence. Everyone needs a consultant, and even the consultants need consultants. The era of cooperation and goodwill has largely gone.’