On tradition, knowledge & quality – ewbc 2011

This was orginally posted at Aqua Vitae – Magnus Reuterdahls vinblogg 2011-11-03

Yesterday I watched the film langhe doc – an interesting documentary on the wine and food industry in Italy by Paolo Casalis. He was one of the keynote speakers at the European wine bloggers confreence this year.  The theme of the film is wine and food, but it really deals more with issues on transitions; on how the world is ever changing and that that change is not always good or beneficial to all. It deals with the value of tradition, culture and the world we live in and on the world we want to live in and leave to our children. It’s really a documentary about choices of lifestyles – and how choises can play a part in this. In the film are three people that think outside the box; perhaps looking to the past but also towards the future, that get to tell their stories – stories of a possible future they don’t care much for, and a future they don’t want – but how they try to change that possible future. The story is a story of defiance towards the way the world currently evolves.

Are they right?  I don’t know – I may not agree with all thier thoughts, ideas or ways but what there is much I do agree with. The film is thought-provoking and puts a finger on several problems.

The film took me back to Italy, to Franciacorta and Toscana (ie Chianti Classico). At both locations we visited wineries that are more industrial or commercial in their approach as well as wineries with more personality and uniqueness. The film in combination with the impressions I got in Italy made ​​me think about how I want my wine, what am I looking for when I buy wine, what makes me tick and what makes me write about a certain wine or winery? What wines are available now and what wines will be available in the future?

The film begins with the words of Giorio Bocca … no one is worried about saving the earth… we should learn to do things in miniature…

I think this is a central point for many of us who loves good wine. What makes a wine interesting? What is quality? What makes a wine pop?

For me winemaking is something of an art, craftsmanship, skills and personality. The wine reflects the producer as well as the area the vines have been growing in; it mirrors the love, devotion and effort put into it. I believe quality is easier to find in a wine made at a family winery or a smaller winery, based on history, tradition and skill rather than in a big cooperation winery (though on occasion I find them good as well). I get the feeling that the retail industry somehow is going astray from this – big buyers such as the Swedish monopoly Systembolaget wants wines that they know will be available for a long time, up to 12 months or longer and in as many stores as possible. My guess is that this is the case, more or less, all over – big chains wants cheap wine and products that have an instant recognition – ie. a type of Coca Cola wine; easy to recognize, easy to drink, easy to sell. In the end this is a threat to the wine industry and winelovers as an entities. This is true regarding food as well.

All this is contrary to my wants, I belive big chain thinking might be the death of the family based/small wineries as that is not in demand at retailers – for the big names this not a problem, there is always a place for a 50+ or 100+ Euro wine with a name. And in that case small numbers isn’t a problem, it’s somewhat of a prerequisite to be exclusive and therefore expensive. This will in the end create a wine market that is less vital and less diversified and therefore less interesting. What you get is boarder shops or big chains that on one hand have lots of cheap industrial wines, for example a lot the BiB wines like in Sweden – that gives the illusion of providing many diffrent wines to choose from, but delivers lots of uniteresting cheap wines that all seem to taste the same. On the other hand they will probably also provide a few very expensive and exclusive wines for those who can afford them as Systembolaget in Sweden. The mid prized wines, say 15-30 euros might very well be lost or marginalized, the wines from small producers, from original producers that can’t meet the demand of quantity might have difficulty to find thier place – going back to the Swedish market, the internet retailers offers a solution to this, at least for now, as providers of quality wine for winelovers not living in the big cities. In many other countries independent wine shops do the same.

 On my horizon there are several positive things happening; an interest for organic wines is on the rise, an interest for sustainability seems to be on the rise, for local production, for quality food, for good animal care etc. I hope for a market where small wine producer has his or her place. Where they are the norm and people looks for originality, terroir, quality and traditional craftsmanship rather than cheap prices and the most amount of alcohol per Krona/Euro or Dollar. Where quality is the main focus rather than cheap thrills, where the story behind a wine wins over an advert campaign. Here I believe bloggers, journalist and writers has a big roll to fill, to present wine in a way that the ordinary customer gets curious rather than lazy and where we put quality before price. With this said – I’m not anti-development, lots of modern-style wines are fantastic, and there are several big wineries that produce high quality wine with personality and unique qualities. New methods and new thinking must be a part of the wine making process just as all other business but preferably based in traditions and craftsmanship with an aim of improving the product rather than as a means to cut costs and win big contracts.

While visiting Chianti Classico on the ewbc post trip we visited different types of winemakers, for example Barone Ricasoli of Castello di Brolio, a big producer with modern facilities and big vineyards. The wines are in many ways fantastic – stringent, elegant and big – lots of flavour and terrior but when compared with wines with a more personal touch I feel that they diminish somewhat. The difference is in individuality and personality, not quality, and in this case certainly not history – Castello di Brolio is where the Chianti Classico recipe was made.

The person behind a wine can in many ways be as important as the soils, the hills, the technique and so forth. The philosophy of the winemaker shines through, it’s not necessarily a better wine but in the end a more interesting one. A terrior of though.

The last visit of the EWBC post trip to Chianti was at the Caparsa estate. The estate is run by fellow wine blogger Paolo Cianferoni, a man with a philosophy regarding his wines and the way he produces it, a love for his winery, for nature and for the tradition of which he is part of. This in itself does not create a good wine but it give a good base for creating a great wine.

Paolo Cianferoni has been making wine since 1982 and works organiclly; he is a small producer that puts his heart and soul in to the wines. I’ll let him tell you in his on words about Caparsa, his philosophy and his own history:


To come to his winery is really to come to his home rather than to a factory or industry. At his winery I felt welcome, in a way at home, and in feeling so it was easy to open up to his wines and experience them fully. The wines are great, filled with passion, personality and terrior – this is the kind of wines I look for and want – and I’m sure that if more got to taste this kind of wine they would toss the BiBs over board and just sit down, sip and enjoy. It’s like cooking a meal, if you take the time to do things from scratch with good products, with knowledge and love then it will be so much more enjoyable. Then there are reasons why we do not always have time or money to do so, but for me that’s my aim.

Magnus Reuterdahl


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