. Vite Vinifera De Vino's Blog: Integrity

Friday, November 17, 2006


Integrity: the quality or state of being of sound moral principle; uprightness, honesty and sincerity.

The integrity of a wine starts from the vineyard, the winemaker and her reputation. But what if one doesn't know the estate owners, how does the integrity show from the wine itself? What does integrity in wine mean?

By tasting a wine just once, it's difficult to discern whether a wine has integrity or whether it is a manipulated product. Most of the time you’ll feel the effects of a manipulated wine the next day as a hangover. The palate can sometimes be deceived (in the short run, anyway). Think about food: a fast food treat might not taste bad, but it's not sincere. Over millions of years, the human palate has evolved a keen ability to determine good food from bad, but twenty first century chemistry can create artificial flavors that betray the palate and make unhealthy nonfood products taste good.

The same is true for wine. It can taste good but be harmful. I remember during the early 80’s, in Italy, there was a big scandal involving the Barberas. Some producers decided to fortify their wines with Ethanol and the outcome was deadly. Tens of people died, many producers got arrested, and the reputation of Barbera went down the drain. I don't know of producers today making deadly wine, but some "clever" producers are still using dubious practices. They add wood chips, they add sugar (these two practices are illegal in Europe but not in all wine growing regions), they add tannic acid, tartaric acid, and excessive sulfites. With chemistry, you can build a wine to taste like anything, probably even a MacDonald’s burger.

And like a MacDonald's burger, a manipulated wine may taste good. However, usually the wines are fabricated to appeal to the market tastes that promise the greatest short term profits. As a result, you have a Merlot from Chile that tastes the same as Cabernet from Australia, both, incidentally, will give you the same cheap headache the next day, too. I don’t agree with the forces that are producing “taste globalization.” We are beginning to find the same flavors everywhere. I suppose that now masses of people can consume food and wine without being afraid of getting something they don’t like, but with such standardization, one misses out on the richness and mixture of stimulating experiences that make life such a wonderful pleasure!

Buona Bevuta a Tutti

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