Vineyards have a talent

I remember a discussion with Ernie Loosen in the Mosel, Germany. He said that each of his vineyards had specific talents. Rather than try to make a full range of sweetness levels from each, he tried to pick the appropriate sweetness level for the Riesling from each particular vineyard, vintage depending. Some vineyards were great Kabinett vineyards. Others were superb at Auslese. And so on.

It makes sense. One of the skills of the winegrower is not to impose her or his wine style, but to listen to what the vineyard is trying to say. Occasionally vineyards can do 2 or 3 things well. More often than not, they can do several things adequately, but only one thing exceptionally.

If I had a patch of vineyard land, I hope I’d have the courage to let it make the wine it is talented at producing, rather than me listening to fashion or trying to make it do what I would want. Of course, some experimentation would be in order, but I hope I would get to the stage where I’d cease experimenting and be at peace enough to let the vineyard get on with what it does best.

3 comments to Vineyards have a talent

  • I believe that this is the essence of the issue: make the wine that your vineyards make, and do your best to explain it and sell it, rather than following a model and try to accommodate your wines to it.
    It might seem obvious, but it takes tremendous confidence to go your way, especially when that doesn’t conform with the dominant taste, the wine guru ratings, etc. It’s also not always easy to explain to customers, when the wine is different from what they expect, but I believe that a good wine, that is true to its place, has an inherent capability of making itself appreciate. Funnily enough, sometimes it’s easier with absolute wine novices or real wine connoisseurs, because they are not yet, or anymore, influenced by the mainstream wine model.

  • Andrew Halliwell

    Good points, but I think it sounds easier than it is to “listen to your vineyard”. Let’s say you inherit a patch of land in McClaren Vale, the Cape or Navarra for example. I can’t help thinking it would take at least 50 years to go through all the different permutations of grapes, rootstocks, pruning, winemaking, weather etc. until you knew what it excelled at. I suppose a European might argue that that is the whole basis of the AoC / DO / DOC system – the work has already been done in previous centuries and now all there is to do is preserve it. Does that mean that people blessed with land in a protected region should ignore all “progress” and all fashion?

    As for my 50 year argument, how does Marlborough Sauv Blanc or Central Otago Pinot fit in? These regions were wildly successful with much less than 50 years elapsed. Did they just get lucky, or is the same land capable of making equally good or “better” wines from other grapes? I know these regions are now showing some success with other varieties, in 30 years time, will Sauv Blanc and Pinot be as entrenched as they are now, or will that “gold rush” be confined to history, as the wave that first brought the regions to prominence, which gave confidence to investors, who finally found the “true expression” of the land?

    It’s an attractive idea, letting the land do the talking, but unless you are some sort of guru such as Dr. Loosen, how do you listen? I’d wager that at least 30% of vineyard land now is not planted with its “optimum” variety, but who’s to say, and how bad is the current situation anyhow?

  • Phil Handford

    Too right vineyards have a talent. And it does take courage to stick with what the site is best at. When you find that unique match between site and variety it is very exciting and rewarding, especially with a grape like Pinot Noir.

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