Monday, July 26, 2004

"Yeasts are winemakers, people are not."

That quote made me laugh out loud.  It really epitomizes the ongoing conflict between vit guys who believe that wine is grown in the vineyard and winemakers who believe they add the magic fairy dust to the grapes.  The truth probably lies somewhere in between,  depending on the actual wine being made (price point, varietal and appellation).   Recently along with the new phenomenon of celebrity chefs,  US wine culture has been elevating winemakers into stars, and consequently, the more attention they get, the less they actually do.  Winemakers who once did their own lab work, prepared their own work orders and actually knew how to work a press are now hiring additional layers of production staff to handle these day-to-day trivialities while they are shuttled from one autograph to another.  One wonders what a Turley really adds to a wine for her $250k annual retainer (and that doesn't get you 40 hrs per week, just her attention when required) that one couldn't get for a measly $125k annually for someone who will be there every day.

This type of thinking by winemakers (that what is done in the winery is the real key to great wine) can be seen in some very interesting places.  Take, for example, a custom-crush facility (this is where a 3rd party makes your wine at their facility for a fee) where fruit from a large vineyard is brought in by two different winemakers.  One, the star, wants "everything on the menu" performed on his grapes during fermentation while the second, the realist, asks for a standard 'crush and ferment'.  One of them pays $500 per ton and the other pays $300 per ton.  Which makes better wine?  The one who has a contract on the best blocks of the vineyard they share.....


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