This is a post that seems to get updated in my mind almost every day. A few weeks back, an interesting article in the SF Chronicle laid out SOME of how the wine world works behind the scenes. Also, there is a great post and discussion in Vinography. If anyone has a new expression for "many ways to skin a cat," let me know. The essence of the story is that there are many seasoned professional winemakers running around solving problems on every continent, sometimes the same person showing up in the most disparate places. I happen to make wine for several brands but all under our roof in Napa.
The methods employed in the many wine sectors run the gamut from total purist to anti-hooey pragmatist. I often find myself saying "the market is the market," which is to say, whatever the customer wants is what is realistic. I don't always follow my own advice.
To digress further, I recall a story when I was in the second grade and we were being judged on our posture. The critics walked around surveying our stance and writing in little notebooks, then an award ceremony of-sorts ensued. My good friend Shawn had stood erect, stock still with chin up and ready to go to war. In my mind, judging our posture meant demonstrating our natural posture so we could learn something, if necessary. Shawn got a blue ribbon, me, an "honorable mention." Yea, thanks. What I never did learn that day was "the market is the market."
You may have read or heard of some of the voodoo technologies available to the market savvy winemakers like micro-oxygenation, wood chips and extracts, reverse osmosis, spinning cones, tannin powders and the new favorite, "Mega-Purple" or what I call dye. These are some of the additives and techniques that are available to ameliorate wines to fit the taste-fashion of the day. Blending and different varietal compositions were the tricks of yore, but much has changed and continues to do so. In my purist bubble, I had not even heard of Mega Purple until a few months ago. That and tannin powder certainly explains some of the wine anomalies that I have seen and tasted lately.
In the end, people should buy and drink what they like and all comers are welcome. It's thrilling to experience all the changes in the wine marketplace but it seems to me that we are teetering on the edge of a consumer revolt leading to stricter labeling laws and full disclosure. Many of us, me included, are wed to the premise of purity and soul for our wine lives, blue ribbons or honorable mentions notwithstanding.