ADVERTISING: Advertorial — Nobody is perfect
| February 15, 2023 1:00 AM
One of our wine club members who is a retired English teacher was in the shop recently and we were discussing a fiction author. Her comments were interesting in that she felt the author’s use of adverbs was lacking but that his books were very well plotted. It is an interesting “take” as the author we were discussing is very popular, with his books selling millions of copies worldwide and having been made into movies that are equally successful. It just shows that indeed nobody is perfect, or put another way nobody is perfect to everybody. By the way our customer still found the movies and books to be really entertaining.
Since I write a wine column, I began thinking the same can be said of winemakers. While their use of adverbs or their skill with plot is not important, there are likely as many factors involved in producing a really great wine as there is in composing a top-notch novel. Winemakers are no doubt faced with similar dilemmas as authors during the process of production, they are simply different dilemmas.
The first criteria winemakers must master to make a really great bottle of wine is balance. As wine consumers, none of us wants to taste a wine much less drink one where one component dominates all others. If all you taste is oak flavors from the barrels, or only fruit with nothing to restrain it or just sugar, or just alcohol that doesn’t make for a good wine. Another aspect of balance is the aromas and palate flavors being in sync. It is not good when we smell one thing, and when we put the wine on our palate it tastes completely different.
Another big part of being a great winemaker is taking what the vintage offers you and still being able to craft a delicious wine. Granted there are vintages that will never produce good let alone great wines. 2011 Or 2020 in Northern California, 2021 and 2022 in parts of Europe were years that simply could not generate wine up to any consumer standards. Outside of those years though the best winemakers still find a way to make great wine.
Also, the best winemakers never approach their craft with a recipe mentality. Each year offers up different rewards and unique challenges so they adapt. This allows them to assemble the best wine year in and year out.
To go back to our author analogy though there is no perfect winemaker. Each comes to the “game” with their own skills and limitations. As wine consumers then what are we to do when finding a winemaker that makes great wine for us? We first want to focus on those producers that avoid the character in wine we really don’t like. As an example, I personally don’t like winemakers that use sweeter oak barrels that impart a sweet woody flavor on the wine. It just doesn’t appeal to my palate, and it can be used to cover a number of flaws in the wine. There are wineries and winemakers that intentionally use those barrels and are going for that sweet presentation. Like our bestselling author many would be shocked by the names of those wines I don’t drink due to the use of that profile in the wine. In the wine world they are the equivalent of best sellers but for me I just can’t do it.
Next focus on those winemakers who make wines you like to drink across varietals. While most winemakers have the grapes, they are best with, when you find a winemaker whose white wine offering appeals to you as much as their reds that is some serious talent. It is a winemaker to hang onto.
While we recognize the talent it takes in a winemaker to make great wine from many different grape varietals you also are better off avoiding those who try to be all things to all people. Authors work in genres, it is highly unusual to find the same person writing romance novels and spy thrillers. Similarly, the best winemakers will specialize on a region or group of varietals that they know, appreciate and handle the best. Find a winemaker that is good at your favorite “genre” and stick with them.
Remember to forgive your favorite winemakers for an off year, or a wine here or there that doesn’t quite measure up. Remember nobody is perfect and all of us, authors or winemakers have missed attempts at our best work.
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George Balling is co-owner with his wife, Mary Lancaster, of The Dinner Party, a wine and gift shop in Coeur d’Alene by Costco. The Dinner Party has won the award for best wine shop in North Idaho twice, including for 2018.
George is also published in several other publications around the country. After working in wineries in California and judging many wine competitions, he moved to Coeur d’Alene with Mary more than 10 years ago to open the shop.