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   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 222, November 2022   
Beautiful Fairy Tales Do Not Make Good WineBeautiful Fairy Tales Do Not Make Good Wine  Contents 
Issue 221, October 2022 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 223, December 2022

Beautiful Fairy Tales Do Not Make Good Wine


 I have said and written this many times now, not only because it is a normal evolution of things and times, but because it is absolutely unavoidable: everything changes. This is a principle in which I have always believed and to which I have continually adapted, convinced that being immovable and to stubbornly believe things should not change, is a huge mistake, as well as a vain illusion. Especially when avoiding the change by arguing that “everything was better in the past”, while forgetting the only certainty we all have now is the present – today – and the prospect of the future. Everything changes, inevitably everything changes. Habits change, tastes change, needs change, we ourselves are the result of a continuous change beginning at the exact moment we are conceived. Wine also changes, of course. The story is there to tell us and, without a shadow of a doubt, the wine produced in archaic times would today be considered simply undrinkable by the majority of us “modern humans”. The opposite is also and certainly true: our wine would have been decidedly considered as bad by those who preceded us a few centuries ago. We – modern humans of our times – like it and a lot, too. Everything changes, after all.


 

 The way wineries and producers tell their wine and, in particular, to visitors, has also changed. Over the years – let's say, at least thirty – I have been able to see how much the relationship between producers and visitors has changed, who are obviously also customers or in any case potential buyers. Everything changes, as I have already stressed several times, and it is normal this aspect too has changed and, without a doubt, will change in the future. In modern wineries, there clearly is a certain attention from producers in the creation of specific structures destined to welcoming visitors, isolating them, more or less clearly, from the parts dedicated to production. Not least, this is a trend which has developed in recent years with the aim of giving the visitor the impression of being in a wine shop or a wine bar, last but not least, in a restaurant. Sometimes I have the impression the intent of the winery is to create a sort of “recreation room” for visitors in order to allows them to chat with friends, sipping a glass of wine, accompanied by “various appetizers”. A showcase depicting a golden, friendly and happy, almost perfect world.

 All theatrically supported by someone – often, the producer himself or herself – who tries to entertain the guests with captivating fairy tales, taking care to promptly supply the guests with “appetizers” and by refilling the glasses. The subject of the fairy tales is always the same, a story which is regularly heard over and over everywhere, with small variations adapted to the size and identity of the winery. Among the most loved subjects, the tradition and the identity of the place, proud defenders of the long stories and family traditions, when there is one. Or the perpetuation of the glories of grapes, territories, habits and strict adherence to the past, necessarily better than anything else because it is about the glorious past. When you then smell the glass, not only it is clear that wine is not exactly what their ancestors would have produced, but it is also rather modest. Most of the time, at least by observing the smiling and enraptured faces of the “audience”, nobody cares about it that much, as it is the story told at that moment to make up for the possible mediocrity of the wine that expresses a supposed tradition and pride of centuries. It is the fairy tale to become the protagonist and cheer the amazement of the listener, between a breadstick and a slice of salami. The wine plays a modest side-role.

 Wineries have become a sort of “welcome center” for casual or bored visitors – yes, of course, even genuinely interested ones – confident of spending a few happy hours, superficially sipping a wine in company of friends and accompanied by something to eat, listening in raptures to the exciting story that exudes a strenuous defense of the pride of a tradition or supposed one. Even paying a price, rightly so. After all, when you go to the cinema or the theater, you pay the entrance fee, as well as when you go to the restaurant, you then pay the bill. An unquestionable principle, given that, by now, the “hospitality” activity is becoming a significant cost for wineries as well as a means of communication and promotion. Each winery, without a shadow of a doubt, despite the strong commitment to the preservation of family traditions and the perpetuation of the production of a wine that has been handed down for generations, is also a company which must necessarily evaluate its balance sheet and pursue a profit. Unquestionable, understandable, legitimate and, above all, indispensable.

 Everything changes and probably today it would not make sense – or rather, it would no longer be understood – the way in which wineries were visited decades ago and the way in which one was “welcomed”. I certainly speak of it not with a spirit of nostalgia – everything changes, in fact – but as a simple reason for comparison. There were no rooms and structures dedicated to wine tasting, there were no dishes full of various appetizers: the only subjects were wine, vineyards, grapes, differences between the various vintages, especially from a viticultural point of view. The welcome, most of the time, was made either in the cellar – with the strong smell of mold and damp – or under a pergola near the manufacturer's house because, in most cases, the same building was both the winery and the home. At other times, the welcome was made directly in the middle of the vineyards because – after all – it is precisely there that the wine poured into the glass is born. I am clearly not nostalgic for those times just for the fact that everything changes and probably that way was suitable and coherent with those times: there were not the usual fairy tales to listen to because it was the wine to mainly speak.

 The producer was frequently telling how he had managed to obtain that wine, despite the not always benevolent conditions of the vintage. And it was precisely at that moment that you could see in his eyes the profound pride in sharing with you the fruit of his or her land and work. They would also talk about family stories because, undeniably, what they were at that time was also the result of the contribution and teaching of those who preceded them. Today, however, when you visit a winery, you are promptly welcomed in an area specifically destined to this activity, it is not always possible to see the production facilities, not to mention the vineyards. When this is possible, one often gets the impression of being part of a group of “tourists on vacation” accompanied by a guide who scrupulously follows the same routes and always tells the same fairy tales. The reception in the winery, therefore, has become a promotional and communication activity, in my opinion not always carried out in an effective and profitable way.

 I am aware this is also the result of changing times and, most likely, today is what people expect when they visit a winery, that is to find a vaguely recreational activity enlivened by a glass of wine and food, while enjoying the show of the fairy tale to listen to. After all, I find it hard to imagine the majority of visitors walking through the vineyards, even when the soil is damp or wet, and leaving with their shoes full of mud, often even their own clothes. Or breathing in the smell of humidity and mold which is sometimes found in certain cellars, especially in those buried in the deep of the earth or in a cave. It is a bit like to what happens for restaurants: everyone wants to see the beautiful tale of elegant rooms, made up of charming and beautiful chefs, in their impeccable and immaculate uniforms, rulers of an easy and perfect world of sublime dishes. They do not imagine that, beyond those walls, in the rooms of the kitchen you live very different efforts, you work hard and get dirty, in what is an absolutely different world and far from the fairy tales painted by the television shows about cooking.

 The same has been happening for some time in the world of wine and in wineries: the real effort required for the production of the wine we are enjoying from the glass must be, in some way, hidden and made almost non-existent, so to speak, “cleaned up”. Yet the vineyard requires hard work, and even a lot, you get dirty and the same happens when the grapes arrive in the winery, starting the production of wine. This should not be seen and should not even be imagined, replaced by the usual beautiful tale, always the same and for all wineries. It is told only the effort made to the indisputable fidelity to tradition – despite they use wine making methods and techniques, grapes and cultivation practices very distant from those of the ones who preceded them – respect for the territory, integrity of their wines, so strongly sons of the nature of their lands. Always the same story told in any winery while sipping a wine that sometimes – if you dare to distract yourself from the beautiful fairy tale and listen only to the voice of the wine screaming from the glass – is decidedly modest and even with some faults, sometimes embarrassing as well. Because, after all, dear producers, fairy tales are beautiful, engaging, compelling and exciting to listen to, but they do not make good wine.

Antonello Biancalana



   Share this article     Summary of Editorial column Wine Tasting 
  Editorial Issue 222, November 2022   
Beautiful Fairy Tales Do Not Make Good WineBeautiful Fairy Tales Do Not Make Good Wine  Contents 
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