Archive for May, 2014


Winemakers as artists

In my book, The Winemaker’s Hand, i compare winemakers to artists who choose the materials they work with, and ask if Monet and Van Gogh use the same colors, why are their paintings so different? The answer lies not only in training, but in perception and individual approaches. Some artists have their own problems: dry spells of creativity, lack of steady income, and a constant need for recognition from critics and consumers.

It’s valid to think of winemakers as artists since they are the masters who manipulate the raw material of grapes and convert them into wine. And like artists, some are more talented than others and are able to create sublime wines. But never turn up a nose at anyone’s honest attempts and labor in any field of endeavor.

Winemakers are more constrained than artists by the limitations of nature and terroir and their positive and negative effects on vines and grape vines. Vintners deal with rain, droughts, and the complications Mother Nature deems to throw their way. They are subject to decisions about which grapes will show their stuff each season, worrying from bud break to harvest. But winemakers show their artistry when one thinks about how wines, even from the same varietal exhibit subtle differences. Some differences are created by nature, while others are purposeful decisions of winemakers. Each vintage, the grapevines have to cooperate Winemakers aren’t always in control. Nature can be kind or cruel and there are limitations as to what the human hand.They are subject to unpredictable forces based on flux and flow of variables that occur throughout a growing season.  It becomes a waiting game, rolling the dice and hoping for a good crop. It is rare to have a  untroubled year with a magnificent harvest so a talented winemaker takes game-saving steps, among them row spacing, orientation of vines, organic farming, and cropping.