Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 58, December 2007   
Tradition: Advantage or Obstacle?Tradition: Advantage or Obstacle?  Contents 
Issue 57, November 2007 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 59, January 2008

Tradition: Advantage or Obstacle?


 Since the times man began making wine, or it should be better to say, since the times man began to commercialize wine, culture and tradition have been connected to this beverage and, most of the times, used as a promotional factor in order to ensure success on sales. In most of the cases, traditional and cultural factors have represented a winning way in the commercialization and identification of a wine. A historical example, among the many, is Bordeaux, which since the times of ancient Romans could “spend” its name everywhere as a synonym of wine - good wine - a fame still alive nowadays. Of course, besides a name, it is also important to have something else, otherwise a name - alone - sooner or later may become a meteor and sink into oblivion of time. Among the factors determining the success of a name, there are also the consequences of the evolution of a product - including wine - which inevitably changes and got adapted to time according to new trends, taste, necessities and cultures.


 

 This concept is more evident if we think about the way our ancestors made wine in past times: no one today, let's say, most of the people today, would find pleasing and “drinkable” the wines considered in the past to be excellent nectars. Technology has played an important role, as to allow the improvement of many wines and to make them virtually impeccable, something that, with no doubt, has nothing in common with the tradition of past times. The way with which are produced wines today is undeniably different - even distant - from the methods used fifty years ago. Nevertheless, there are many who still try to identify a wine with tradition, when of that tradition is clearly left a name and a distant memory only. In these times of supertechnological wines, does it make any sense to talk about ancient traditions, when they mainly play a romantic role and used, in most of the cases, to not disturb the conscience of those who don't want to accept the fact things have inevitably changed?

 Who is making today a wine by exactly using the techniques of fifty or one hundred years ago, that is in the time recalled in celebrating a tradition? Probably no wine producer is doing that, maybe few vintners who make wine for the fun of it and for personal consumption and who - very likely - does not have the resources or the interest in making use of modern technologies, as opposed to what it is common in “commercial” wine. Although this could be seen as a criticism, it is indeed a consideration highlighting what has always accompanied man, in the good and in the bad, during the course of his history: evolution and development. It is therefore normal things undergo processes of evolution and development, derived from a better knowledge - although and however limited - as to allow the progress of intelligence and human expression. Something which already and inevitably happened fifty years ago, when wine was made in a different way from one hundred, two hundred, one thousand years ago. It is very likely in every epoch men recalled the traditions of past times, despite the fact everyone was trying to improve production and not only for commercial purposes only.

 It is very likely in fifty years there will certainly be someone who will recall tradition - that is what we are and express in this time and era - when technology and progress will have inevitably developed new systems and methods for making wine, something which is always happened in the course of time. Better or worst than what we make today, this is something future generations will tell, but the technological progress will have inevitably introduced new methods, just like the way we have today techniques completely unknown and unthinkable in past times. Result of progress: it always existed, it always accompanied man and it will always exist. Also in the case of wine. Therefore, how much does it make sense to cling to traditions when they undeniably get adapted and evolve with the expression, culture and customs of the time? How many foods, how many wines and customs belonging to past times - therefore undeniably traditional - have disappeared, or better to say, got evolved as time passed by? Probably all of them.

 There is nothing wrong in recalling and keeping traditions of past times: after all what we are today is also the undeniable result of traditions and of the past, therefore it is good not to forget them, not only to help us to remember where we are from and where we can go from here. What is probably upsetting in the showing off and in the safeguarding of traditions is speculation. Most of the times a tradition is abused only for commercial purposes, in a way to make consumers believe tradition - alone - could be the only factor ensuring quality. And what it is even more upsetting is that no one - or maybe few - make today wine according to a real tradition and to what it really represents, both because some laws and some hygienic issues do not allow the use of some traditional procedures, as well as what was made in past times does not sometimes meet the taste of modern men. Therefore, is tradition an obstacle? Of course not: it is a huge advantage in case we make use of intelligence in order to learn from the experience every tradition can offer and to use it in order to improve something already existing.

 In this sense it is significative the experience of some wine producing countries belonging to the so called New World, where, undoubtedly, there were no local traditions to be used as a reference. In these places they have simply watched the traditions of others while trying to improve them in order to make quality. The result is evident for everyone and, in particular, with an undeniable technological advantage also for those countries which are still trying to sell tradition while trying to make everyone believe this is, alone, a winning reason. It can certainly be, provided there is also a quality which can justify the price of tradition, not only according to an economical point of view. No one would probably pay for something of doubtful quality, even though it is traditional. Tradition certainly is an advantage, it is an invaluable expression of the evolution of intelligence and culture of human beings and the place where they live in, a heritage to be passed to future generations in order to understand the mistakes of the past while hoping they will not made again. Let's recall, keep and safeguard traditions - it certainly is good and right, this is also true for wine - provided they will not become an unbearable burden and would limit intuition, intelligence, fantasy and the capability of dreaming in men.

 




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  Editorial Issue 58, December 2007   
Tradition: Advantage or Obstacle?Tradition: Advantage or Obstacle?  Contents 
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