The following has been kindly contributed by our guest blogger Daniel Honan of the Wine Idealist (http://thewineidealist.com/), a website dedicated to observing and narrating the emerging evolution of sustainable winemaking within Australia and New Zealand.
Wine is a bit like a potato… OK, maybe it’s more like a strawberry (if you insist on conferring an element of romanticism onto it). The point is, wine is an agricultural product, just like a strawberry, or a banana, or yes, even the humble potato. Wine shouldn’t be made to a recipe, like beer, or Coke is, and it can’t be made at any given time of the year when stocks are low and demand is high. Wine isn’t really even made; it’s grown… in a vineyard, by a vigneron, once a year.
Once a year, nearing the end of summer, a vigneron, or winegrower gets the chance to reap the rewards of all their hard work spent pruning, weeding, spraying, literally farming in their vineyard, and even then they’re still reliant upon the casual whims of Mother Nature to ensure a successful harvest.
If you’re a young winegrower, say 35 years old, and you’re lucky enough to own your own property, which features your own vineyard, and your own winery, you stand the chance of being able to grow your own wine, maybe 30-40 more times over the course of the rest of your life. Because for each and every trip around the sun, you will only get one shot at making wine that year, and that doesn’t even guarantee that you’ll make it well! You’re still young, remember, and whilst you might know the basic rules of how to transform grapes off the vine into a bottle of wine, you certainly won’t know all of your vineyard’s hidden talents, secrets and riddles. That takes time, and time is not a luxury that many winegrowers have the privilege of possessing.
Of course, none of this really matters when you’re buying wine at 3 for $25 at Uncle Dan’s & Co. It’s not something most people have ever given much thought to, which is fine, and easy enough to understand, because whenever you walk into the store, or pick up a magazine you’re not exactly going to see or read about the painstaking, backbreaking, potentially heartbreaking efforts that went into winemaking that year. Why? Because that’s not considered to be very exciting, and, unfortunately, doesn’t sell wine, and because today, just like everything else, from a mobile phone to a loaf of cheap sliced white bread, wine is, more often than not, seen as just another consumable. So, those three bottles of plonk, sold at the bargain price of $25 at Uncle Dan’s & Co. are just another fast moving consumable beverage in a long line of other consumable beverages, that Uncle Dan’s & Co. sells, which you might choose to fill your glass with over the weekend.
It’s not that these wines have been as strictly manufactured in the same way as Coke or a loaf of cheap sliced white bread, but they certainly have had a lot of processing done to them in order to make them look, taste, and feel like a consistent, predictable and uniform product. Which is fine, if you like that type of thing, but just know that what you’re drinking isn’t exactly wine at all. Rather, a grape derived alcoholic beverage.
Wine is grown in a vineyard, not made in a factory. Each year is different, and unique to the last… that’s why it’s called a vintage. Wine shouldn’t taste exactly the same for 10, 20, 30 years in a row. It might have hallmarks, or similarities, which indicate provenance, but wine should never taste homogenous. Because each region, each vineyard, even each row is different and unique to any other region, vineyard, or row anywhere else in the world. Wine, when created and handled with care, has the ability to reflect the place where it is from and therefore should be as individual and distinct as a German motorcar, a Chicago blues song, a loaf of sourdough from your favourite baker, or a strawberry grown in your own back yard.
Ask questions about your next glass or bottle of wine… What’s in it? Where is it from? Who grew it? How was it made?
Wine is a privilege. Consume it with care.
A note about the use of animal products in the wine making process:
As you may or may not be aware, animal products, such as egg yolk, casein derived from milk, gelatine and isinglass (a fish derived product) may be used by wine makers to give the wine clarity in a process known as fining. To learn more about this process please follow this link: http://www.organicwine.com.au/what-makes-a-wine-vegan.