Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What do you want to know about the wine you drink?

As a full-on info glutton, I am often frustrated about the lack of information available about many of the wines that I drink. Labels, which the rest of the food and beverage world use to list ingredients at their very best will list percentages of each varietal used in making the wine. More often than not, they are dedicated to drawings of small animals or are poorly written tomes describing how ‘x’ wine is a perfect accompaniment to anything from dry turkey to grandma’s overdone roast. They should at a minimum be forced to write this stuff in ‘haiku.’

But what should be written on these labels and what info should be readily available to the interested consumer? The demystification of wine begins with knowing what grapes we are drinking and where they are grown. If the Napa Cabernet I’m drinking in reality contains“x” percentage of another grape, is in part sourced from a different area, or blended with wines from previous vintages, then why is this reality not reflected on the label.

And what about the processes, ingredients and other details about how a wine is made? Aside from a warning that the wine contains sulfites, which is relevant to but a small percentage of the drinking population who have such intolerances, little is divulged. When I have questioned people in the wine industry, the response has been that nobody really wants to know about this stuff, or that “chemical sounding names” will just scare people off, or my favourite, that they are ‘trade secrets.’ Coke and twinkies don’t reveal everything, do they?

Bullshit. I have read enough tech sheets and talked with enough winemakers to know that wineries are happy to divulge lots of info about their wine. Maceration time, the duration, temperature, and type of fermentation, wether they use whole bunches, the type of press used, yields, the list goes on and on. But ask them about the use of colorants, or the addition of tannin, tartaric acid, sugar, water, or wether it’s been de-alcoholized, and they are much more retiscent. If you are one on one with the winemaker, perhaps you will get a hushed response.

These manipulations are as important in making a wine as much of the above mentioned processes that they are willing to talk about. I am not out to embarrass people, I just want to know what went in to making the wine I am drinking.

And to those winemakers who embrace this technology, let me taste the wines with the full knowledge that they are products of these manipulations. If they are as good as the rest, I’ll buy them and tell others to do so as well. Their silence just perpetuates the sceptic in me.

This type of disclosure, wether it be on the label or on the wineries website will just serve to educate the drinking population. The best winemakers use intuition and instinct to make their wines. It is an art form and even if Picasso told you all about the exact color mixes he used, few people would be able to copy him. And those who could, wouldn't. Where the problem lies are are the Enologix type of winemakers who follow recipes, to create wines which match flavour profiles using whatever technology that is available to them. I see this as a threat but that is a topic for another day..

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