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Saturday, March 21, 2009

True or false? (#8)

yes, it's been a long time... but for those of you who are familiar with my "True or False?", this is the first one produced as a varietal... :) - I would love to hear from you.
Thanks, LA
"90 percent of the potential quality lies in the quality of the fruit in the first place. The winemaker’s task is merely to translate this into the finest possible wine. He will not be able to add quality. His role is not to screw it up." - True or False?


Luiz Alberto said...

Reply by Elliot Essman:
The problem here is the use of the term "potential" quality. In terms of actual quality I would say it's more of a 50/50 proposition. Winemaking has too many variables to accord it less than full partner status with grape growing.

Reply by Rachell Coe:
If we were talking about grape juice, then the above would be true. But wine is so much more then just the grapes! Just like a sculpture can interpret a fine block of stone and turn it into something beautiful, so can the winemaker craft elegant wines out of grapes. The grapes are just the raw materials, and of course quality is important! But its what the winemaker does with the grapes that results in the fine wine.

Reply by Bob Barclay:
True, with the possible exception of blending, which can yield a sum greater than the parts.

Luiz Alberto said...

Reply by Monte D. Young, PC CSW:
Yes it is true that the grapes need to be of great quality to begin with, but he or she is not just a "tech." If they do not bring a level of quality to the final product, then why have them there? I think the maker does add a level of quality to the final wine, but that is in addition to the quality that is already there. I think it is more than a lowly 10% of quality they add, probably more like 25% or more, depending on the grapes they have to work with.
Cheers! MDY PC CSW.

Reply by Hugo Manuel S. Almeida:
True and False. True because without good grapes is impossible to make great wines. False because winemakers in our days are able too change wines in wineries. They have tools which can, some times, give more quality in wines

Reply by StacyWoods:
I fall into the "quality can not be added" camp, with conditions. The winemaker can not make good wine from poor grapes (rotten, mouldy, etc.) however, you can make poor wine (oxidized, faulted, unbalanced etc) with good grapes. This is an indication that that the winemaker counts for more than "translaton." The answer depends on the definition of quality, the spectrum can range from a quality wine without faults to quality wines of balance, complexity, and finesse. Falling somewhere in the middle of that spectrum I would argue that a skilled winemaker can enhance quality in less than ideal years with winemaking practices tailor made for the specific fruit. This is especially true in the most marginal places, such as Burgundy. Consider the heat wave in 2003 in Europe it really sets the winemakers apart.

Reply by Jonathan Keller:
There's a fairly easy way to test this theory - how about a comparative tasting? For example, there are many "famous" vineyards from which well respected winemakers source fruit in order to make a single-vineyard offering. Let's just for argument say, the "Shea" vineyard in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Many great producers use that fruit to produce Pinot Noirs, year after year, albeit from different blocks of course, but essentially an extremely similar quality of fruit. If you were to taste five different finished wines from the same vintage, the same vineyard, but all crafted by different producers, would you not be able to distinguish the stylistic "signature" of each winemaker? Would not one or two certainly stand out in a blind tasting? Just a thought and a nod to the art of winemaking. IMHO, truly great wines are created when there is a near perfect alignment of incredible fruit and a talented winemaker.

Reply by Clark Smith:
This is like asking if your computer's performance is due to its hardware or its software. It's 100% both. Each alone is necessary but not sufficient. Or think of it like composer and performer. And than there is the varietal/clone choice, which is like the instruments -- also 100% in its own dimension. You're asking for a one dimensional answer to a multidimensional phenomenon.

In reality winemakers make good wine from bad grapes all the time, but not so much great wine. The winemaker is certainly limited by fruit quality, which must come first. In my view, it's his/her job to present the taste of a place while keeping the production influence as invisible as possible. That takes consumate skill, and the achievement of invisibility is perhaps the most challenging and therefore laudable aspect of the interplay.

Reply by Ivan Stephen:
It seems to me that this is an "Old World" versus "New World" question. Traditionally, old world regions have the closest link to terroir, and often the most interesting wine. The new world is more focused on brands, although at the higher end there is some emphasis on terroir and appellations. The two are now learning from each other, as the old world regions also modernize their methods.

Modern consumers (especially novices and those who avidly read the point-oriented wine writers) are often scared off by the old world's marketing methods with their intimidating labels and lack of varietal information. Currently, the trend appears to that the new world's methods are winning.

Reply by Nick Coppola:
False. I think what you propose it contradicting... True potential must be in the wine grapes, but it takes a masterful winemaker to bring out and frame that potential. It is not good enough to propose that his/her role is "not to screw it up" - rather they need to be an active participant to the process.

To put it another way, think of all those people in the world who do not like vegetables - even when at their freshest and why??? The answer is because they've not been exposed to the same fresh vegetables after being placed into the hands of a masterful chef.

Chefs and Winemakers give ingredients and grapes a medium through which to project their fullest expression.