The Art of Winemaking

Having been making wines for over a decade, I am starting to understand why I am a winemaker.  Carl the winemaker

I come from a family of artists. Most of them disgruntled for one reason or another. One left his home country of Sweden. One became an engineer. My brother is a story unto himself. Each one of us seems to have been firstly hindered by a commitment to a certain medium. Pen-and-ink, oil, watercolor, ceramics, motorcycles, woodworking.

I don't draw. Doesn't mean I can't. But I never spent the effort and put in the time to learn how. But I did know how to drink. As a teenager, you go through all sorts of phases, most of them preoccupied with quantity rather than quality. But somehow early on I was attracted to the taste of really good beer. I started homebrewing when I was 23, with many failed batches of pilsners, IPAs, and meads to learn from. All homebrewers--if you didn't know it already--will drink just about anything. And I was a homebrewer, I had paid good money for that barley and hops, and damn it, it was going to be drunk.

Unfortunately, my palate couldn't handle it after a while.

There are some in the wine world that wax poetic about the artistic side of winemaking. These are usually the enologists who are hired to make "masterful blends" for wineries around the world. A lot of times, they are the owners who come and sit in on blending sessions prior to bottling. I'll give them that those take skill and that there's a sense of art to them. But for me it goes a little bit in a different direction.

At one point, while reading a wine magazine, I read some importer describing the wines in his book as being made by winemakers who drive tractors not Jaguars. That's what I am. I drive a tractor and dump lugs. As do the people I surround myself with. And this is key to what I think winemaking is about.

There is definitely art in the glass. A sense of quality that happens in the interaction between the wine and the winedrinker (and perhaps the winedrinker's surroundings.) It takes a winedrinker in the act of drinking wine to sense that there is quality in the glass (or a lack of quality.) It's my opinion that art leads to this quality.

The word "art" comes from the Greek, I believe. "Arete" is a sense of goodness reached by "techne" (loosely translated as skill.) Through a technical ability, something good is created. This is art. And, for the Greeks, there was the addition of the divine. An inspiration that occurred, that could usurp techne and lead to even greater goodness.

After reading way too much Plato, I realized that Quality (with a capital "Q") that can be found in art is probably just as much a result of the process as it is the end product. Sure we like to drink the glass of wine. But sometimes knowing where the glass of wine came from and how we struggled to make it sometimes makes it taste better still.

Our winemaking here at Allegro is driven by my need to make better wine. In order to get there, we change our process constantly. And hopefully it shows in the glass.