One of my first jobs out of university was an internship with a company that grew and sold fresh produce. I had grown up on the land, so knew what growing quality produce meant, but this experience with fastidious customers really underscored the value of provenance.
When you sell fruit to a shop, there might be ten different grades for assessing quality. And consumers know how to make their own judgement on what they buy at the market. But when it comes to wine, people are a step away from the raw ingredient. They can’t make a judgment about the grapes the way they can with other fresh produce. They aren’t even sure about the questions to ask. It’s little wonder that people may be confused about the winemaking process.
Provenance is the source of the grapes and the skill of the grower. These are the most important elements to me because winemaking is a conversion process from grape to glass.
I was a winemaker long before I was a grape grower. I know how to play with technique and style. But at the end of the day, if the grapes aren’t great, nothing will disguise that fact. Good wine is relatively hands-off. You should have done all the work in the field. I don’t think too much about what I’m going to do in the winery because I know that if the fruit is great, you shouldn’t have to do a lot. What I do think about is the character of the fruit, and what I need to do to bottle that.
For me, making wine means growing grapes.