Winemaking goes against the prevailing winds of our modern life. While today we are driven to do everything more quickly, to expect that every need can be met immediately, to believe we can understand anything straightaway with increasing amounts of information at our fingertips, to craft a great wine means knowing how to wait…
Nature has its own timing and to think that we can control it, accelerate it, is not only presumptuous but also a source of serious errors. Driven by financial pressures, assured by the “miracle cures” of modern chemistry and encouraged by government subsidies, mainstream viticulture and winemaking have been for some time now doing everything backwards. The traumatic omega graft in industrial nurseries, selected clones (the only subsidized way to replant a vineyard), the use of herbicides and pesticides which not only kill the ecosystem, but also encourages the farmer’s neglect of soils, thermovinification (heating to near-boiling temperatures prior to fermentation which eliminates everything that lends to a wine’s distinctiveness) and so on. All this has given us soulless wines, at best standardized, produced by vines that will have died before reaching 25 years.
I admit that when I started out I did my share of these errors. But I have revised my philosophy over the years, and based on strong beliefs I have adopted an approach that may seem diehard and unrealistic given my age (55 years and counting) but which is justified by the interest shown by the next generation. We have the time, the time to get it right, even if I won’t be the one to benefit.
For the past five years, all our new vines are unsubsidized massal selection (grafts harvested from old vines that are still producing beautiful fruit & have resisted everything life threw at them for over 80 years). In our future new plantations we will first plant the rootstock (which bears no grapes), let it develop its root system for 3 years, and then graft it with massal selection. This may be more expensive but it’s much less stressful for the plant and was standard practice when my father started in viticulture.
We have also returned to bush vine, which was the norm in the region because it’s best suited to our climate, but is also not subsidized. Caring for the soil and organic vineyard management are both time consuming, but they are important in allowing the vine to find its place in a balanced ecosystem, the benefits of which we’re already seeing with respect to the quality of our wines, and will continue to amplify as time goes by. The fruit set is delayed, the plant has time to find its balance before producing and I am convinced that all this work will have a very positive impact on the life expectancy of our vineyards and thus their ability to produce great wines.
Closer to you, taking the time to open a bottle in advance, letting it open, allowing it to reach the right serving temperature, and then sharing it around a lively meal with family and friends is true bliss.
Has time become the ultimate luxury?