Thursday, July 4, 2013

Interventionist Winemaking: What Could Be More American?

For many years I cursed American winemakers for manipulating their wines.  I dismissed many as flawed and phony-tasting.  My allegiance went to the old world, especially France - where the word 'winemaker' doesn't even exist.  They employ vigneron, or 'vine grower.'  The word has come to mean winemaker in many translations but it is not what it means literally.
Ask a vigneron about some technical aspect of their wine and many respond with a gentle shrug of the shoulders and a small expulsion of air from the mouth that sounds like 'puh.'  When I have pressed further, responses mostly focus around why I need that information when I have the wine in my glass.  The implication was that reading me a recipe would not tell me enough about the final dish as actually taking a bite would.  I love this answer, though it frustrated me greatly while I was selling wine because American buyers, and some consumers, want to know the nuts and bolts of a wine before they buy.
The United States has a very different climate and it affords us wide latitude in what vines to plant and where to put them.  We had no accepted list of what to plant and where it would grow best, so we did the American thing: we experimented and blazed new trails.
We are the country of Manifest Destiny.  We are the country that accepts differences (or used to) and embraces a variety of cultures.  Our founders left countries because they did not like how they were being told to live.  The war to free us from British rule and tyranny was called the Revolution.  Why should our wine culture be any different?
I don't always like these brash, non-traditional wines but perhaps I should respect them more for simply being American.  Happy Independence Day!

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