Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.
– RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Fine wine needs to evolve from a distinct point of view – a self imposed discipline to navigate the siren song of temptation. Otherwise, you may wake up one day to find yourself fabricating a wine to placate a critic or fill a market segment, and discover your craft has devolved into just another recipe for soulless wine.
Having a distinct point of view can also be dangerous. It invites unwelcome criticism from those who make a career out of second guessing the methods or intent of others. Yes, dig deep enough and you can find inconsistencies or incomplete execution in anything, but this is a craftsman’s journey that will only improve with repetition and refinement. The following, gleaned from 35 years of winegrowing, are our rules for great wine from our point of view:
A wine should taste like it came from a place, not a chemistry set. POV is a wine of place with bright acidity and vibrant flavors from the cool “Right Bank” of Napa Carneros region.
The craft of fine wine is directly related to the accumulation of knowledge. It is difficult to make an elegant wine when vineyard sources change or grapes are grown by someone else.
Competitive blind tasting along with the scoring of wine has a built in bias toward power, extraction, sugar and/or alcohol over a wine of balance, finesse and elegance. Furthermore, wine scores tend toward an international, homogenous style while ignoring the diverse regionality that makes wine so exciting. Trust your own palate and just say no to wine competition.
Machines are wonderful for the heavy lifting jobs of mowing cover crops, cultivating or applying Biodynamic preps, but they can’t replace the eye or decision making of a real person for pruning or harvesting.
A great wine needs to be not only elegant, balanced and understated, but also grown in a way that respects the land and the earth.
A farm is not nature, but it can emulate natural systems. A Biodynamic farm recognizes that human intervention damages natural systems and it is the responsibility of the farmer to heal the land by developing systems that encourage natural processes.
Accept responsibility and find balance where we can. For example, a tractor might be an effective mower time-wise, but it takes without giving back. A lamb will mow and enrich the soil while reducing the use of fossil fuels.
Nature hates monoculture. By leaving trees where they are and developing habitat where they aren’t, a farm can better emulate natural systems where predators, such as hawks, owls, foxes, and coyotes, thrive, to remove gophers, rabbits, and other “pests” without poisons. Planting cover crops and hedgerows also help support beneficial insect populations and vigorous soil micro-organisms for healthy soils that lead to healthy plants.
Select fine French barrels for subtlety and their ability to enhance the natural flavors of the wine. Grapes that are well grown should be the primary focus, not the oak.
In this technological age, a winemaker can repair a broken wine or manipulate a wine to fit a preconceived profile. A fine wine should be about the craft of growing an elegant, balanced wine that does not require remedial winemaking.
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