Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
 

Editor's Letter

 

Where Artistry Meets Technology

October 2010
 
by Jim Gordon
 
 

When planning this first-ever Artisan Winemaking Issue of Wines & Vines, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what “artisan” meant—someone who applies artistry to their craft. We wanted an issue theme to appeal to smaller-sized vineyard and winery operations throughout North America, and particularly those working to produce wines of exceptional quality.

Only after the assignments went out and the articles came back in did I realize how well the various components of this issue challenge the definition of “artisan” and frame the philosophical discussion of what a winemaker contributes to the product, as opposed to the grapes and the winemaking tools.

The definition of “artisan” that I like best for this issue is the one I found at Wikipedia: “An artisan (from Italian: artigiano) is a skilled manual worker who makes items that may be functional or strictly decorative, including furniture, clothing, jewelry, household items and tools. The term can also be used as an adjective to refer to the craft of hand-making food products, such as bread, beverages and cheese.

“Manufacture by hand and with hand tools imparts unique and individual qualities to artisanal products, in contrast to mass-produced goods, where every one is nearly identical.”

An artisan makes things by hand and uses hand tools. To me that raises the question: How much of a wine’s value comes from the artisan, and how much comes from the artisan’s tools?

Paul Franson’s cover story brings out various approaches to the winemaking craft, from a range of very accomplished artisan winemakers. What are the keys to their success in producing wines that merit very high prices and high marks from critics? Whether young or old, from Sonoma or Santa Barbara, maker of Cabernet or Pinot Noir, they all cited the quality of grapes they use as the most important contribution to their wine.

None of them credited their successes to the perfect crush pad processing line (even though we know how important this is), or to a flawless program of SO2 additions. Pressed for details about the parts of the winemaking process that made the difference between good wine and great wine, they frequently talked about a very artistic factor—tasting. They described their most critical decisions in winemaking as based on something very individual—their personal sensory perceptions—rather than on the tools and technology they use.

And yet, many of these winemakers have bought and do use the latest equipment and supplies for grape sorting, pressing, lab testing and so on. Two other articles in the issue give great examples of how new technology contributes more backup than ever before to wine industry artisans’ sensory skills.

Author and winemaker Stephen Yafa’s third article about barrels for Wines & Vines describes an important new technology for coopers that enhances their artisanal products. Most winemakers grasp that the tightness of the oak grain is correlated to the tannin level in the barrel, but it turns out that tannin levels in the wood can be much more accurately assessed via near-infrared technology than by even the most experienced artisan cooper’s naked eye.

Another technology that backs up the artisan winemaker is the Adams-Harbertson phenolics assay, a method for measuring tannin and color in must and wine that Wines & Vines has covered extensively. The article by Corey Beck and his winemaking team at the Francis Coppola Winery in Sonoma County, however, is the best explanation I’ve ever seen of how to apply the assay to make better wine.  

Beck and company emphasize that the assay is extremely valuable in confirming sensory impressions at critical points in winemaking, such as whether to pump over or punch down, and when to press off a red ferment. These are exactly the same points at which several of the winemakers in Franson’s story said that tasting was the key to making the best decision. Beck’s team writes that by looking at assay results while also tasting, one is doing “real time winemaking,” a process that can be more effective than simply doing one or the other.

If we want to go back to the definition of “artisan” and get picky, we see that “hand tools” are what artisans use, not infrared scanners and complicated lab analyses. Fortunately, no one is holding winemakers to this standard except themselves. They decide how to balance art and technology. I believe that the most successful ones use the best tools to quickly focus on a relatively small range of variability wherein they then apply tasting, their artistic goals and their experience to get the most out of their raw materials, the grapes.

Since wine drinkers ultimately appreciate wine based on their personal tastes, just as they appreciate music or art, it seems right that a winemaker’s personal tastes play such a prominent role in the crafting of artisanal wine.

 

 
SHARE »
Close
 
Currently no comments posted for this article.
 
 
SEE OTHER EDITIONS OF THIS COLUMN ï¿½ CURRENT COLUMN ARTICLES »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 $557 million
5%
$7,577 million
6%
July 2013 $533 million $7,128 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 $61 million
9%
$1,674 million
10%
July 2013 $56 million $1,517 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 312
10%
222
19%
July 2013 283 187
     
 
MORE » Released on 08.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wines & Vines
Packaging Conference
 
Learn More »
 
 

Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • August 19-23
     
    World of Wine
     
  • August 23
     
    Harvest STOMP
     
  • August 29-31
     
    Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
     
  • August 30 - September 1
     
    Columbia Gorge Open House Weekend
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Useful Spanish for Wine Harvest »
 
you misspelled "zona" under Loading Area
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Early 2014 Grape Harvest Begins »
 
Thanks for mentioning Temecula and the South Coast appellation in your article. It is great...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
All these arguments could be levied by any industry associated with any gTLD, new or...
Reader: Doug Barnett
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
Do brands get hijacked now? Even though .wine does not yet exist, are there false...
Reader: Larry Chandler
 
Article: Resistant Weeds Threaten Vineyards »
 
Roundup is not benign. It does not always break down in a day or two...
Reader: Robert Rex
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Sales Rep Westchester...
 Scarsdale, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Territory Sales Rep-We...
 West Covina, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Harvest Lab Tech And C...
 Glen Ellen, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Concierge
 St. Helena, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Marketing And Public R...
 Yamhill County, OR
Sales and Marketing
 Guest Experience - Tas...
 Wapato, WA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Territory Sales Repres...
 Visalia, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Administrative Support
 Oakland, CA
General Administration and
 General Manager, Bottl...
 Sonoma, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Production/Procurement...
 Novato, CA
Winemaking and Production
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.