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What Makes Great Wine?

All of this rain is making Malibu look more like Ireland than a beach town (no complaints!) Our land is being replenished and our wells and lakes are feeling full again. This is also a great start to our year, rain early on in harvest is exactly what we need to start a great vintage year.

We have been pruning our vines, gearing them up for spring. We hope that this rain continues (since we are looking to be at least halfway out of our drought!) but slows as spring emerges.

The biggest indicator of a good year will be the weather. From bud break to harvest, we rely on the weather to help us create a beautiful wine to offer in the coming years.

double rainbow

The ultimate year would consist of ample rain in the winter, easy breeze in spring time and an Indian summer before harvest. Warm summer days and cool nights are the perfect puzzle pieces for a successful growing season. But every year is different and unpredictable (ahem, El Nino).

This is why you hear many people say “2012 was a great year for California wines” or “2012 was a terrible year for France.” Weather in the US in 2012 caused one of our best vintages to date, while in France, it was one of their worst (in their opinion). If you are a collector, you bear this date in mind when buying wine. If you are a novice drinker, it will not affect your choices as much since wines still tend to be consistent (most of the time).

If you are buying or tasting boutique wines (like Semler) you can taste the weather patterns in the wine. High alcohol and bold flavors express hot summers while lower alcohol and higher acid indicate some weather battles. Both of these factors result in a great wine, they just will age differently. Wines tend to be consistent throughout each year. Once you taste vintages year after year, you can notice subtle differences that you may have missed before. This is the “terroir” of the wine.

There is an art to cultivating and helping the grapes grow to maturity. A vineyard manager must make sure the grapes are flowering, watered properly and have adequate air flow.

Wine is delicious art.

So, what happens if the weather isn’t exactly ideal? That’s what the winemaker is for. Wine can be manipulated with different yeast strains, types of wood barrels vs. stainless steel, aging process, etc. There is an art form to creating a beautiful wine. Just because some wines have faults doesn’t mean the wine is bad. Every winemaker creates with the intention of letting nature speak for itself. Sometimes we need to make up for what nature couldn’t do.

Every artist is different, as is every winemaker. Winemakers follow ideologies that they were taught along their career and these ideologies vary in every AVA or country. You can’t appropriately compare Picasso to Leonardo da Vinci, so why compare a French winemaker to an Australian winemaker. Find your niche and drink up.

Wine is art. Appreciating art is divine, and I appreciate it every night.


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