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  Editorial Issue 102, December 2011   
The Factors Making a WineThe Factors Making a Wine  Contents 
Issue 101, November 2011 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 103, January 2012

The Factors Making a Wine


 Terroir is important. Grapes are important. What you do in a vineyard is important. The wine maker is important. What you do in the winery is important. And it is also important the name you put in the label of a bottle, from the producer's name to the name of the production area. This is undeniable: a renowned and celebrated name makes a difference. Notwithstanding William Shakespeare who wanted Juliet to say that a name, after all, is not that important and a rose would smell just the same even in case we would call it with a different name. Juliet was certainly right, however marketing and success rules follow a pretty different philosophy. As for wine, no matter how this can be important, the name is not a factor really making a wine. It helps to sell it and there is no doubt about this. This is something well known to producers who work in the less known areas - and who however make excellent products - how a name could help their commercial success.


 

 There are many factors allowing the creation of a good wine and it is hard to tell what is the most important one, as each of them has the chance to express itself also thanks to the presence of the other ones. Everyone agrees on the fact grape quality is essential in order to make a great wine: using a low quality raw matter, all you can do is to make a wine having the same low quality. Making use of quality grapes does not ensure the production of a quality wine in case are adopted procedures or methods which would destroy this advantage. From quality grapes you can get a quality wine as well as a bad quality wine. From bad quality grapes you can get a bad quality wine, or a decent wine in case the wine maker is sufficiently good to do some kind of “magic tricks”. To make a good wine you need a good technique, as well as a good quantity of art and talent, and in particular, are these two latter factors to make an exciting wine having a remarkable personality and value.

 For this reason, the wine maker is important. And it is important the knowledge, the technical skill, personal philosophy of interpreting a territory and its grapes, the morality with which he or she makes a genuine and healthy wine. It is not a matter of making use of chemistry or not - in any case, this will always be present although in different ways and forms - indeed to the way a producer cultivates grapes and makes wine, factors anticipating the respect he or she has for customers and wines. As already said, producers and wine makers do not have good chances to make a great wine in case the raw matter - the grape - is of low quality. Quality of grapes is determined by many factors, not only by soil and territory, as well as terroir, but also by factors strictly associated to viticulture, that is, agronomic factors. If the wine maker is the interpreter of grapes, when they reach the winery, the agronomist certainly is the interpreter of the territory and the respect for vineyard. In other words, it is the technical figure ensuring the quality of grapes and their expressive potentials.

 In the vineyard, as well as in the winery, everyone follows his or her own productive philosophy, frequently based on a specific school of thought, sometimes very extreme as to be considered as orthodox religious movements. I am not criticizing the wine making or viticultural methods used by each producer, but it is also true some of them - in particular the most convinced and fervent ones - believe in their ideas is such a lively way, ending in ideological fights, each one firmly supporting their ideas and positions. Wines from organic agriculture, biodynamic wines, conventional wines, natural wines - as to mention the most recurring schools of thought - are viticultural and wine making methods supported with proud by producers who use them for their wines. If we listen to each producer, each of them is ready to support the method used for the wines and will say it is the best one, mentioning countless thesis in order to support his or her thought. And, after all, this is very normal: in case the producer does not believe to what he or she makes and the way it is made, also wine quality would suffer from this.

 I am not trying to doubt the good faith of those who support a specific viticultural or wine making method, however sometimes it is hard to understand the subtle difference among sincerity, passion, speculation, proud and arrogance. Of course, the wine in the glass, evaluated through the nose and the judgment of senses, makes you understand a lot about the one who made it and how it was made. Taking precautions is however and always appropriate. It is like in past times when the first so called organic wines were about to be commercialized. They did not always had an impeccable quality, they frequently had embarrassing faults, but they however had - according to what their producers were saying - the quality of being “organic”, that is the most genuine wine one could ever have in a glass. Times have changed and the ones who were making a viticultural or wine making method the only commercial factor have understood - also thanks to the need of consumers, more and more exacting - that besides good intentions and genuineness, you also need quality expressed by facts.

 Then there is territory and, in particular, terroir, a term on which there is much speculation and which will becoming the new “fashion in wine”, one of the many destined to become a trendy subject. Let's say this straight: terroir is important and plays an essential role, fundamental and important for the personality and quality of a wine. The French have made of terroir a winning commercial strategy, while emphasizing its importance, not only with words, but also with facts. There are many factors making a wine, including words, productive philosophy, schools of thought or a specific elitist behavior: something which is true both for producers and consumers. Sometimes, among the factors making a wine, we also find the fashions of the moment and the names of wine and producers which becomes renowned for reasons sometimes hard to understand. Because, like the emperor Nero of the extraordinary Ettore Petrolini said after having harangued the people of Rome enraged for the famous fire: «Lo vedi all'urtimo com'è er popolo? Quando s'abbitua a ddi' che sei bravo, pure che non fai gnente, sei sempre bravo» (Do you see how the people are, after all? When they get used to say you are good, even in case you are not doing anything, you are good anyway).

Antonello Biancalana






   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 102, December 2011   
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