Wine Culture and Information - Volume 17
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  Editorial Issue 178, November 2018   
Everyone Drinks the Wine He or She DeservesEveryone Drinks the Wine He or She Deserves  Contents 
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Everyone Drinks the Wine He or She Deserves


 In my conscious training in the world of wine, which began more than twenty years ago, one of the many factors which determined my knowledge – or ignorance, according to the points of view – was the reading of countless books, not least, having tasted thousands of wines of which I have now lost count. Reading is, in fact, one of the pleasures which accompanied my life since I learned to read when I was kid: an intimate need which led me to avidly read book after book. And I've never stopped doing it. Of the many books I read about wine at the beginning of my training journey – including those about wine making, viticulture, sensory tasting and wine making chemistry – I have been extremely impressed by those written by Émile Peynaud. A figure of huge impact and competence, undisputed father of modern oenology, the famous and magnificent French wine maker has in fact written books of sure reference for anyone who is seriously interested about wine and not only at a professional level.


 

 There is a thought of Emile Peynaud, obviously one of many, that impressed me very much at the exact moment I read it and still today it is well vivid in my mind: «It is you (consumers) that in a certain way make quality. If there are bad wines it is because there are bad consumers. Taste follows the roughness of the intellect: everyone drinks the wine he or she deserves». To many this may seem a rude consideration and even a discriminatory one, for others – including myself – it is a thought of deep culture which undeniably expresses a consolidated truth and “an evident fact”. It should also be considered the period in which this fundamental thought was expressed by Èmile Peynaud. It is easy today to find wines free from gross faults – however, it is embarrassing to note how this “fad” is still sadly common today – something however being quite frequent in the 1980s. If we therefore consider the famous thought of Èmile Peynaud with the enological situation of the past years, it does not only reveal the condition of that time, but also an immutable truth.

 I keep in my mind, as an invaluable teaching, the bad memory of those gross wines with embarrassing and evident defects, that still today, when I find them in my glass – less frequently than in those days, but not so infrequently – I recall those words of Emile Paynaud. After all, consumers make quality: if certain producers continue making wines with obvious faults – and maybe they even consider them good, better than others as well as perfect – it obviously means they sell them and have customers capable of appreciating them. A banal business and market law: if a product is sold, regardless of its real quality, it means there are consumers who buy them and are capable of appreciating their quality. Nevertheless, I cannot really recognize any elegance or quality to these wines: to me they rather seem an insult to the territory from which they are born and to their grapes, even worse when they are proposed as the true expression of those lands.

 There is no elegance in a wine fault, there is no elegance even in those who, with ill-concealed good faith, try to convince others by claiming it is indeed that gross characteristic making the quality of that wine and of the territory. It is not a matter of supporting the utopian search for perfection – something that, in case it would be possible to make or get, it would even be boring – but it is an evident fact that, in some cases, the lack of elegance in wines is at least an abuse to the intelligence of others, or at least, of some. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible, even today, despite the huge progress research and technology have achieved in the field of wine making and viticulture, with information and practices known and accessible to all, there are wines with such embarrassing faults, so lacking in any elegance. I am not certainly praising an enological sophistication – which many would superficially and improperly define “chemistry” – indeed I am supporting certain practices of common sense, including hygienic ones, most of the times simple and trivial, which, when correctly applied, make it possible to avoid gross errors and embarrassing faults.

 Taste and elegance are intimately subjective concepts and it is all too obvious they are not definable in objective or absolute terms. Just like the concept of beauty, they are elements which definition is strongly conditioned by cultural, social and traditional factors, last but not the least, subjective ones. They can therefore be defined, so to speak, in “statistical” terms, that is by determining the most frequent and accepted definition in a given context. Therefore, talking about elegance referred to wine – I am aware of this – is an evidently complicated and definitely questionable act, a sort of intellectual arrogance that could be annoying for some or completely agreeable for others. As far as I am concerned, I find it difficult to appreciate a wine without that quality I associate to elegance and, very often, it is even a reason for irritation to me. After all, as I usually say, if I have to drink a bad wine or a wine with faults, I much prefer to have a good glass of water instead.

 Wines without elegance, even worse, with gross faults, always give me the idea of the superficiality and incapacity of the producer, perhaps even in good faith. Everyone, of course, has his or her own references and concepts of quality and elegance, respectable although not agreeable, however I find it difficult to consider a fault as the undeniable sign of quality, authenticity and goodness. The commitment and passion for making a wine are certainly and indisputably appreciated: respect for the work of others is never questioned. In the past, having in a glass a wine with faults was quite frequent and, undeniably, a huge technological and enological progress has been achieved, something that allowed to limit their presence in the name of a proven and objectively agreed quality.

 I think, by considering things from this point of view, we are going back to that wine of the past full of faults, with the aggravating circumstance of showing them off with pride as the expression of a unique and absolute enological authenticity. Perhaps the abundance of quality wines with no faults has led to a sort of regression of taste and consumption, to the point of convincingly going back to that wine so lacking in any elegance. A sort of going back to the origins, which does not necessarily mean the improvement of things – wine, in our case – indeed it may be the sign the lack of knowledge of the past or the symptom of a short memory, both for not having lived that period and for reasons of opportunity. I am still convinced that, in the end, Émile Peynaud was right: everyone drinks the wine he or she deserves.

Antonello Biancalana



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  Editorial Issue 178, November 2018   
Everyone Drinks the Wine He or She DeservesEveryone Drinks the Wine He or She Deserves  Contents 
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