Last time I wrote about integrity in wine production, I concentrated on what happens during the winemaking process. But integrity doesn't begin with the decision not to add chemicals to the final product,
A healthy wine begins in the vineyard.
Wines is a natural, agricultural product and when it’s treated lovingly start to finish in a healthy, natural, nurturing environment it repays us with an emotional experience, each glass is a journey across time and space, a communion between mother nature and human nature.
However, some wine these days are produced in an industrial, antiseptic, profit driven environment that strips the nature from the product and, as often as not, leaves us unsatisfied, disappointed, and with a headache! A well tended, healthy grapevine at a high quality vineyard typically yields about from half a Kilo to one kilogram of fruit. In lower quality vineyards, one plant may yield more, perhaps two or three kilograms per plant. There is a new era of mass production industrial farms that are producing as much as 9 kg of fruit per plant! Now, you might think that more fruit would mean healthier vines, but it's the opposite. When a plant produces 10 Kilos of grape the organoleptic content in the grape itself will be high water and very poor in tannins, phenols, sugars and other substances that are good for your health and create the flavor spectrum of the wine.
Now, let's follow these grapes from the industrial vineyard. After they're harvested, they're transformed into must. Then, the must, is either fermented and than manipulated to achieved some sort of flavor and then bottled, or, in case the must have to be shipped, is concentrated with a machine that separates the water from the rest creating some sort of grape marmalade, packed into steel containers and shipped to other parts of the world. When the must gets to destination is turned into wine in much the same way that a packet of powdered flavors is turned into soup by adding water. Then, tannic acid, tartaric acid, sulfites, essential oils, and other additives are mixed in. The result is a product that is sold to large distributors for about $0.75-$1.50 per bottle and about 5 to 7 dollars to the final costumer. Now, the consumer, upon tasting the wine, typically finds it “not too bad” and concludes that his purchase was a good value. But science has tricked the taste buds, much the same way that chemicals can be added to low quality fast food to make it taste satisfying when in fact it is extremely unhealthy. Ultimately, this product will never give the consumer the kind of wine experience that I love (and have come to expect) in wine a taste of the earth and air of where it was produced, the personality of the producer, and all the character (and yes, sometimes flaws) that come with natural beauty.
So, how can you tell whether your "not too bad" tasting wine is the product of a natural product lovingly crafted, or reconstituted wine-marmalade with artificial flavors? Well, the mass produced wine usually gives you a headache the next morning if not the night you drink it.
Another hint is after you finish the bottle. If two people split a bottle of good wine produced with integrity, usually they feel like opening another one of the same right after. Then that was definitely a good bottle of wine!
Buona Bevuta a Tutti