Thursday, April 19, 2007

Clark Smith interview tomorrow

Last Friday (Friday April 13th, 2007), Appellation America posted the first part of a two part article/interview with Clark Smith of Vinovation by Alan Goldfarb. Tomorrow (4/20/07) is the day that the second installment is slated to appear.

As always, Clark has provided material quotes both Pro & Con for his cause celebre: using technology to adjust and manipulate wine.

It's a polarizing issue, and one which is greatly misunderstood by the public at large, as wine writers tend to rail against technology (usually all technology) without having a firm understanding of what that technology actually brings to the finished wine firsthand. If many of the pundits who cry out for the abolition of oak chips or dealcoholization could have the opportunity to try a single wine which has been portioned off & various additives or techniques applied to it...well, wouldn't that be a great thing? Then this debate might actually be approaching some rational destination instead of being blown all over creation by the hot winds of reactionary writers. (Dear Lord, it'd be fun to see which writers who were positioned against additives or manipulations might actually prefer them in a blind tasting - please excuse my mean streak! Such guilty pleasures...)

Now, I've tasted wines made using of some of the services Vinovation offers in the past, and I have tasted them against their respective parent lots when Clark's processes are finished, and I have seen these services successfully applied to wines at the $15/btl level and $65/btl I don't have a "problem" with the thought of his technology being applied to wines if done so judiciously. (Now you know one of the reasons why I post anonymously...)
But there is the problem of Clark's support of
BioD (biodynamics) in his previous entries on his own WineSmith blog, and several rails against UCD and Ann Noble amongst others for not supporting his views on minerality which I took some exception to last December. Also there have been instances where articles have portrayed Vinovation as a "bring 'em back from the dead" service which would allow any winemaker, no matter how feeble, to produce great wines without regard to how badly they may have screwed them up...which is incorrect.
Vinovation is not a panacea to correct all deficiencies...

But I have a problem with the last article in that Clark contradicts himself:
"The white cherry that you get here is terroir that you’re getting because of the micro-biology,” he insists. “I think of the Roman process as being a lot like un-pasteurized cheese. You get an extra dimension. Who knew? I think lots of micro-oxygenation is how we pull this off. This thing has a ton of brett but you can’t smell brett in that wine. The tannin has been structured properly and integrates those flavors just like a Béarnaise sauce. …” it terroir or is it microbial flora? Does the wine need to be contaminated to show fruit aromas specific to the area it was grown in...? No...
Plus, I'm unsure of how micro-ox would help there unless it drives off the Brett aromas.
Tannins are structural and textural components, not aromatic ones...

Also, the concluding sentence of the next paragraph regarding another wine which has had SO2 added to it is quite telling about what his philosophy is: "There’s no microbial activity to draw out the extra dimension.”
Hmmmmm. So we're to put our wines to bottle without filtering, and leave the microbes unchecked with SO2...trusting that the micro-ox will have calmed the rascals down to a point where they won't cause problems...even a few years - maybe decades - later? That's a bit scary from a production viewpoint: do you really have any right to say you alone crafted a wine, if it's so potentially unstable it probably would change in the bottle? Uncontrollably?

So, in a way I guess we're back to where Australia's Barossa Valley Syrah was a while back, where the producers and press were happy to suggest that the sweaty saddle aromas were "terroir" notes in the wine - up until the time that Brett was found to be the culprit.
To state it a bit archaically "microbes do not terroir make".

It should be interesting to read where the second installment leads this conversation of theirs...and we only have check out
Appellation America tomorrow to find out.


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