When Michael Mondavi began making wine in the 60’s several influential wine makers in Bordeaux challenged his philosophy.
“I would argue with the people in Bordeaux because they said it’s at least 90 percent terroir, and I said no it’s at least 50 percent the winemaker. They were right and it took me thirty years to fully understand it,” said Mondavi on a recent talk we had here in Seattle.
I had a chance to gain some insight into what he’s learned since those early days and wanted to share it here…
“The harvested grapes are the baby, and a lot of wine makers today think ok now I have the grapes, now I’m going to make the wine. But that’s not how it works. If the newer or younger winemakers today understand that the roots, the soil, the vine and the climate are the genetic parents and you make the wine in the vineyard- and it may take you ten or 15 years to understand that vineyard- they’ll make great wine. If they think, oh we’ll grow the grapes and buy from this grower or that grower and make great wine… they’ll make ok wine, but it will never be something that you could shout about or be proud of because it’s in the babysitting. You are not the genetic parent.”
In my experience, the wines that stand out most to me carry this principle. When the winemaker respects the importance of terroir, there is an inherent energy and vibrancy to their wine.
Opus One Vineyard, Photo courtesy of Jim G.