Monday, 7 June 2010

Wine: terroir, passion and variety.

There are two main ways of making wine: one is through standardisation and the other is the traditional way.

Unfortunately, it seems the most popular way nowadays is through standardisation. This starts with producers hiring enologists (always the same ones). Then it's down to marketing, working with the international press and the so-called wine critics. The goal is to turn everyone into 'one consumer': to have the same opinion and tastes on (mass-produced) wines. According to the powerful 'experts', we should prefer wine with lots of colour, tannins and sweetness. Jonathan Nossiter, director and author of the film 'Mondovino', calls this process the "Parkerization" of wine, from the famous wine critic Robert Parker. In other words, the 'wine critics' want wine to taste the same, no matter where it is produced. This way of making wine suits the globalised wine producers because it's standardisation, not diversity, that makes things easier for them.

Then, there is another way of making wine: It's the traditional way. This is what we always discuss during our wine-tasting evenings, part of our Italian cooking holidays and vacations. What's important, in this case, is the 'terroir', the territory of the wine. The soil, the wind, the climate, the surrounding nature and the local traditional techniques are what matter. This is usually wine made by small producers, with passion. These are wines that are very different from village to village, let alone from region to region in each country (Italy, in my case), because the 'terroir' is different and determines the wine's flavour and character.
In other words, as Nossiter said, "wine is an intimate thing". Why should we listen to the so-called experts? Why shouldn't we develop our own taste and preferences? This would make the 'experts' less and less powerful and would give us the freedom to trust our own taste-buds again. Keeping the wine's terroir as our only guide, it would bring back one of the most important things in life: variety.

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