diable incarné

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Eric Asimov's recent article proves Michel Rolland is just as charming as he was portrayed on the big screen.

My absolute favorite part of the article is when Asimov asks Rolland about the movement toward big alcohol wines. Eric lists Clos Du Val (bless his heart for thinking of us!) and Corison (let me just tell you -- Cathy Corison makes amazing, amazing wines -- I had her 96 Cab recently, and it was unbelievable -- and only 12.8% alcohol!) as examples of two wineries that aren't following this trend. And Rolland pretty much responds by calling us both losers.

I kid you not:
We spoke about the rising level of alcohol in wines and the trend toward allowing grapes to ripen longer before they are harvested. The resulting wines are bigger and more opulent, with sweeter fruit, softer tannins and an absence of herbal flavors that were once commonplace in cabernet sauvignon-based wines. I mention Clos du Val and Corison, two Napa Valley producers whose wines adhere to a less upfront, more austere style, and Mr. Rolland is strikingly dismissive.
“Are they as successful in the marketplace? No,” he said, warming to the subject. “Wine is done for what? The public! Wine is a business. They want to make wine to sell wine. In the U.S. they are honest enough to tell you they want good ratings. They don’t want loser wines.”
I have been fuming over this quote since I first read it early yesterday morning. Rolland goes against absolutely everything wine is to me. The winemakers I admire don't go into the wine industry because "it's a business." In fact, it takes years to actually make a return on your wines -- if you plant vines, it will take 2-3 years before you get any fruit, and then when you actually use that fruit to make a wine, you'll have to wait an additional 2-3 years before you can release it. Seriously, anyone going into this business because they think it's an easy way to make money is nuts. Most everyone I respect in the industry -- those I've come to view as teachers -- is not in it for the money. They're in it because they genuinely love wine. Many left well-established (and yes, often more lucrative) careers -- tenured professorships at big-name universities even! -- to become cellar rats.

It's the corporate folks -- those who are impatient, who want huge results right away, who don't even really know how to make their own wines -- who hire Rolland. And so he travels all over the world, making the same kind of wine from a number of different regions and countries, thus destroying the idea of terroir. And then of course his BFF Robert Parker gives his wines 90+ scores and all those consumers who think wine is a status symbol or an investment and have no clue how to form their own opinions about what they like and don't like buy these wines. And of course, they don't even drink them. They just show their friends: "Look what I have that you can't afford. I am so cool."

And we get called losers because we stand by our own beliefs and offer people something different.

P.S. Lower-alcohol wines pair better with food. And they are more likely to age.

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