When I can manage the time, I read the latest wine news using the great filter known as Lewis Perdue and his great stream on Wine Industry Insight. i usually take my que’s from the title in the stream and when I saw the title of this article (Modern Wine Industry Destroying Sense of Place), I knew it was a must read. To my total surprise the article was based on an interview and conversation with a Wine Consultant I met during my time with Winebow Imports. Alberto Antonini is a very talented winemaker and due to his clients needs he can create wines that the market and critics drool over. So when the article quotes Alberto about modern winemaking methods destroying sense of place, I thought it quite ironic that it was coming from one of a small handful of famed international winery consultants. In general you don’t get international fame as a winemaker without “creating” wines that please the most important critics and segments of the market. It is rare that real authentic wines that speak of where they’re from get that kind of recognition.
I guess the real issue here is not what Alberto believes but how he makes a living. And making wines with real character, authenticity and sense of place are niche wines for the most part. While the niche market looking for authentic and distinct wines is growing it is still a niche that requires a some luck, strategy and help to break into. Antonini’s views are easy for me to agree with but, incongruous with the wines that helped make him famous (Antinori, Frescobaldi, Gallo, Concha y Toro). At the end of the article is a link to a Q & A which also includes some wonderful (if ironic) quotes from Antonini that really do speak to the concept of noblewines, nobleproducers and the nobletier.
Here are a few of my favorite excerpts from the Q & A:
Q. “Has wine become a commodity?” (this is something I am constantly concerned about)
A. “Some wines are, especially when instead of selling the region we sell the grape variety. The grape variety is a commodity concept and [grapes] can be grown anywhere, like apples or corn, while regions are unique.”
Q. “Is there anything particular that you most dislike in a wine?”
A. “I don’t like when I drink a wine and the day after, I don’t remember it, which means it was not very interesting. I don’t think that premium wines are about perfection. They are more about emotions. Obviously, quality is quality, but sometimes I drink perfect wines that do not excite me. I like when I feel that the wine I am drinking is teaching me something. I don’t like when it is just a nice drink.”
My apologies to Alberto for calling him out and thank you to Rebecca Gibb for writing the original article for Winesearcher.com and the Q. & A. session. (I assume she wrote that.) The whole of the ideas in both articles help to explain the pain and irony the wine industry is currently experiencing. It is also important that Alberto’s thoughts win in the end rather than those Commodity wines that help destroy a sense of place for wine.