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It's Not Quality Wine Unless I Make It

Wine Consumer Magazine, Sean Piper
09/15/2014

WineConsumers, I'd like you to know that there are mystical, magical stories in the wine world that have little or nothing to do with the actual quality of any given bottle of wine on any given #WineWednesday anywhere in the wine universe.

People who sell products tell stories about the products they sell, and every wine maker/producer since the beginning of wine has had a story to tell you - because they want you to connect in some way to their wine. Their stories are an important way to differentiate one producer's wine from the next, but the stories rarely represent the real quality of the wine.


One such case of magical storytelling was revealed to me when a friend showed me a winemaker's snippet stating they only buy "grapes...not [finished] wine." This meant they skipped the winegrowing part and made their wine from procured grapes (grapes not grown by the winemakers), but they didn't skip the winemaking part and buy the finished wine because they are authentic winemakers. They're the real McCoys of winemaking.

 

It immediately raised some questions in my mind and I wondered why the winemaker felt it was necessary to make this part of their wine's story. Did they believe that this was the best way to convey wine quality? I was not convinced. While I think it's perfectly okay to make wine from purchased grapes, I also have no problem with hiring an outside winemaker to make the wine. Whether you are making quality wine to sell or buying quality wine to sell, you sort of end up with the same thing, right? Quality wine for sale.

Consumers should consider the implication of the winemaker's statement. The "grapes...not wine" story gives a false impression that quality wine is only truly achieved if the seller is also the winemaker. This is an illusion of quality control.

So why not take this illusion a little further?

What if the grapes are grown, fermented, crushed, aged, and bottled within the confines of a historic one-acre estate and what if it’s all accomplished by one amazingly gifted and hardworking person? Does that make it better than, say, a wine made by two semi-hardworking hipsters, on a two-acre warehouse property in west Oakland?

Ok. I agree with you, It doesn't matter. It's really all about the final product.

So what is the best wine, then?

Some fancy wine folk might say that wine is best when it's made from grapes grown by the winemaker. I say, nonsense. They might also say that the best wine is vinified and cellared in the county, or region, where the grapes are grown. Again, complete gobbledygook. There are too many examples of quality wine that prove these ideas completely false.

It's true that grape quality will degrade if too much time elapses between picking and fermentation but, certainly, with modern transportation it's possible move mass quantities of freshly picked grapes between regions without loss in quality.  And, who knows, perhaps the inter-region travel might even add favorably to the wine's savoir by exposing the grapes to a unique mixture of wild yeasts, and what-not. Who knows? As the end-user, the consumer, you get to decide for yourself.

The takeaway here is that good wine only truly happens when two things work in harmony: good grapes and good winemaking. That's it. Everything else is simply a story to help sell the wine.

Yes, but what if...what if...

What if the person who bottled the wine isn't the same person who made the wine? (Cue the Bourgogne Choir) And, a resounding SO THE EFF WHAT!

Hold on, I'm not finished.

Is wine the best when the winemaker picks every single grape one-by-one, individually washes, polishes, and romantically kisses each grape before gently squeezing - between finger and thumb - the angelic juice into a solid gold vat blessed by Tibetan monks?

Ummers...don't go there, Sean.

You see, I could go on forever. These "grapes...not wine" stories make for good Food Network and Travel Channel episodes, but they are not the reality of quality wine.

Again, only two questions address the real quality of the wine:

1.How good are the grapes? (Terroir)

2.How good is the winemaker? (Savoir)

Everything beyond that is just good 'ol storytelling.

Wine quality doesn't change based on the final seller (unless you're Rudy K.) - but stories do.

Grown, Bottled, Cellared, and Vinted might look intriguing when written in French script on a wine label, but these are just terms used to please governing agencies and provide content for the storytellers; they do not genuinely reflect the quality of your wine. Sorry to level the playing field - it had to be done. If your wine is good, you will know it when you taste it. (More on that another time.)

...Anyway, what do I know? I'm just a wine consumer (Right, Chris Parks?). *wink, wink*

I am WineConsumer...and so are you. Boom!

Cheers.

Sean.

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