The longer I spend in the wine industry the more I see this is a people business.
It’s about people dealing with this amazing product in so many different ways – the growing, the making, the ageing, the distribution, the selling and the drinking.
I have often said that you could probably programme a computer to make wine and I am quite sure it would make a fair job.
I am also sure that it would be dependable, the same bottle after bottle.
Two of the three parts of the story of winemaking would come into play.
Geography would influence the style by the soil in which the grapes grow, the weather wet or dry, the temperature cool or hot. Science in the form of biology covers the grape varieties.
Science in the form of chemistry is responsible for the fermentation.
To this, man brings the third part of the story – artistry. That’s something a machine can not do!
Winemakers can tweak the concept, change the vineyard management, decide to harvest a day early or even a couple of days later.
In a difficult vintage this could be the difference between a brilliant wine or a real dog.
The story from the moment the bud bursts on the vine to the moment the cork pops, which could be as short as nine months for Beaujolais Noveau, or as long as 30 or 40 years or even longer for some aged wines, is constantly affected by man’s decisions.
One man who is this sort of person is Frank Mitolo.
Frank visited our shop a couple of years ago while promoting his great wines from McLaren Vale in Australia.
He entertained about 15 of us with some great stories.
He is a typical young Australian. He does things his own way, and as far as we could make out he makes most of the winemaking decisions over a very long lunch!
He has borrowed winemaking styles from Italy by drying some of his grape crop like the Amarone makers in Valpolicella to strengthen the flavour and his decisions on planting, pruning and harvesting have raised a few eyebrows.
The upshot has been wines produced from a very small acreage, attracting the attention of both Decanter Magazine and the International Wine Challenge.
We keep two at the moment. His Jester Shiraz at £12.99 and the Jester Cabernet Sauvignon at £13.99 are astounding.
Both carry huge levels of blackcurranty fruit, velvety tannins and inviting perfumes.
The Shiraz is much more peppery and both would be brilliant with big steaks, game casseroles and most roast meats.
Big flavours from a big character – well done Frank!
Published: March 2, 2012
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