I saw an eagle gracefully tracing circles over the vineyard and it got me thinking about the significance of life cycles, how various critters live out the circle of life…
Grape vines by definition isn’t a narcissistic variety, they are nurturers. That is why they tend to produce such vigor and fruit in abundance (with some notable exceptions). They are looking for those birds to consume the fruits of their labor and continue the cycle of life. They soak up the sun and desperately search for water in a gargantuan effort to not just survive but thrive for the sake of their offspring – their fruit. From my point of view it is as motherly as it gets… and that is where it all begins. Anyone that has spend 5 minutes in the wine world would tell you the proverbial cliché – great wines start with great grapes, great wines are grown in the vineyard, etc.
That would be 100% true.
Then it is onto “vineyard management”, which, granted, requires lots of skills and dogged dedication, but let’s face it, also is a fancy term for “grape torture” as most open and sincere vineyard managers would tell you… how many times have you heard the most brilliant growers in the industry talk about reducing yields? What do you think “dropping fruit” means? Or dry-farming? Or low-irrigation?
That means “no water for you” kind of “soup Nazi” deal, ah and yes, we’ll take of some of your “offspring” to be recycled through vertical “disintegration”, i.e. let it rot on the ground and become part of the soil… and be absorbed into that cycle of life. (Some of my vineyard manager friends talk of going straight to “grape hell”, should it exist, for the atrocities they have committed…)
Ironically after all the torture, the grapes get treated with velvet gloves, some notable wineries who have both the resources and the inclination even pick at night (mostly applicable to Pinot Nor crop) to maximize the cooling environment that preserves the integrity of the fruit.
In the life of a wine maker that is often the most stressful time, harvest, as it sets the tone for the entire vintage. Compromised fruit will never make great wine.
Next comes the cellar work, which mostly is about emotional and palatal intelligence and wisdom, otherwise known as “don’t fix what ain’t broken”. Again, most renowned winemakers will tell you that their efforts are mostly about taking the nurturing reigns and not messing up what Mother Nature delivered. If you are a parent it ought to sound familiar.
And last but not least comes you, the consumer (often through an obstacle course put together by a three-tier Monster, wholesalers, restaurateurs and wine shops). Wine travel is just that, a journey of self-discovery, a marathon of sorts. As you move along, the scenery and the pace changes, your physicality ebbs and flows but one thing remains – the experience of every turn… if you weren’t interested in that you would have chosen a sprint instead (and found satisfaction in a nearest bar). Wine journey is for seekers.
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