20 September 2006 - Where is Great Wine Made?
I have a confession to make. I have said many times that at least 80% of a great wine is made in the vineyard — the cliche goes like this: you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Most people who make great wine will say this very same thing, playing down the importance of their contribution to the wine in the bottle. But, this argument fails to explain what makes great wine.
People choose the right grape vines to put in the right places. People farm the vineyard, choosing to coax vines to push out fewer, if higher quality, grapes. People choose to allow grapes to ferment on their own wild yeasts; people taste, deciding when a wine has seen enough wood, deciding when it should be bottled, then choose to bottle their wines with little or no fining or filtration.
In other words, great wine people will make great wine in great vintages — and they’ll make delicious wine in less than great vintages. Lousy wine people will make better wine in great vintages — but odds are they’ll never make great wine. The great people behind tonight’s wines are the Perrin brothers (Beaucastel, Perrin et Fils), Louis Barruol (Saint Cosme), and Serge Ferigoule (Sang de Cailloux).
The Rhone Valley went through two dramatically different experiences in 2002/2003. In ‘02 they were virtually flooded out of their villages — the rain was torrential enough to send some vineyards right down the Rhone River. In 2003, a record heat wave killed hundreds of people throughout Europe, including the Rhone. Lots of extremely ripe-to-over-ripe wine was made in the Rhone in 2003. 2004 was less extreme, but supremely beautiful for wine grapes — you can taste
it in tonight’s wines.