Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A Good Wine Begins in the Vineyard

Just about any French winemaker will tell you that a good wine begins in the vineyard. A wine is a natural, agricultural product that should be treated with care from start to finish in a natural, healthy environment.

The entire vine environment; the climate, location, and soil also determines the character of the wine. This is the concept of "terroir". The climate takes into account the wind, length of day, amount of sun, temperature variations, and moisture. The location refers to the land's slope, its relief and orientation to the sun. Soil aspects include the depth of soil, its layers, the type and depth of the layers, its water holding capacity, temperature, and chemical composition.

The concept of terroir means that due to the vine's environment, wines from a specific terroir are unique and incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are the same.

In contrast, many wines today are being mass produced in an industrial environment, driven by profit. To obtain a higher yield of grapes, these industrial vineyards work the land with heavy equipment, sterilize the soil, spray for pests and deplete the groundwater. The yield is much higher, but often the grape quality is lower. Few people are aware that many of these industrial wines also contain chemical additives, added during the vinification and aging stages to manipulate the wine's aroma and flavor.

The result is a wine that can be sold to the consumer at a lower price than the wine produced by the winemaket that has allowed his vines to develop in a natural environment with continous nurturing, and minimum intervention. It can fool your tastebuds and taste not too bad, but would you rather have a wine crafted by someone who nutures his land, or one that has been made using artificial flavors?

1 comment:

David Britten said...

I have had the chance recently to taste a Beaujolais Villages Nouveau sold under the name of 'Elephant on a tightrope'. This wine was produced by a family run vineyard in Southern Beaujolais. I have been fortunate to be involved in the wine business as a buyer for UK and French companies and found this wine to be totally different to the 'commercial' wine that finds it way onto the market. I would recommend that this wine is drunk year round, rather than the 'heady' commercial types drunk only in November during Beaujolais Nouveau time. Well done to the producer and the team from 'Elephant on a tightrope' who support these smaller producers.