14
Nov
17

THE WINEMAKER’S HAND:CONVERSATIONS ON TALENT, TECHNIQUE, AND TERROIR by Natalie Berkowitz

If you ever wondered how grapes transmogrify into wine, pick up a copy of “The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” published by  Columbia University Press. Telling interviews with over forty winemakers from wine regions around the world reveal their commitments, skills, passions, struggles, and training to produce a liquid refreshment that is enjoyed alone or as a partner to food. These conversations point out the impact of an individual’s influence on each vintage from deciding which grapes are best suited to a terroir, to pruning, harvesting, fermenting, aging, bottling, and marketing. It unravels the mystery and magic of the creation of one of mankind’s most enjoyable and historic companions.

Our early ancestors enjoyed the fruit of the vine but no one knows who was  the first person to taste fermented grape juice and say yummy. Archeologists unearthed information about the long history of wine from Egyptian frescoes and digs that uncovered winemaking techniques and drinking implements.

“The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” features producers from The United States, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Chile, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, and Israel. Their unique insights show that what’s in the winemaker’s head is as important as what’s in the grape, and why wine varies from winery to winery, region to region, and grape to grape. Reading their stories would be akin to asking Monet and Van Gogh to explain why they use the same colors but produce strikingly different paintings.

Since grapes don’t jump into the bottle by themselves, vintners have struggled for centuries to improve wine. Today’s winemakers marry traditional methods to new technology., putting their skills together as scientists, farmers, and artists dealing with Mother Nature’s benevolent bounties and cruel limitations.

This group of winemakers represents a microcosm of their peers and the complexities they face each vintage to produce quality wine that varies from place to place and from winemaker to winemaker. It explains why two winemakers harvesting grapes from the same vineyard at the same moment will produce wines that speak, not only of its terroir, but of a reflection of an individual’s goals, dedication, and personality. Reading their stories would be akin to asking Monet and Van Gogh to explain why they use the same colors but produce strikingly different paintings. The love of the winemaking process, from bud break to harvest and bottling, shines through the telling conversations that account for the plethora of differences between wines.

For example, nonagenarian  Mike Grgich’s triumph over winning the Judgment of Paris, the1976 event that pitted upstart Americans against top French wines and with a wine put California wines on the map is only one exciting story. Cathy Corison’s and Dawnine Dyer’s successful break into winemaking at a time when women were relegated to picking and stomping grapes is equally fascinating.

The book  includes maps and the history of each region, a glossary of wine terms, a glossary of wine varietals, and information on the author’s background. Each winemaker submitted a personal recipe and a photograph.  A wine tasting wheel innumerates the various sensory perceptions around taste and aroma in wine ranging from desirable to off-putting,

“The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique and Terroir” is the next best thing to visiting a winery and meeting a vintner face to face. It’s a perfect read for  beginners and connoisseurs. It’s a great gift anytime, or during this holiday season. The book is available in hard cover and paperback through Amazon.

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