How the Nature-Nurture Dynamic Works in the Wine World

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), January 11, 2012 | Go to article overview

How the Nature-Nurture Dynamic Works in the Wine World


Nature and nurture aren't topics limited to biosocial science. They also are hotly debated in winemaking and may determine what you'll drink with dinner tonight.

Wine fermented juice is essentially natural. Because bubbling, roiling fermentation is a spontaneous process, wine production originally was not so much "making" anything, as much as standing back and shielding your eyes.

Wine's breakthrough technology (circa 1 A.D.) was the wooden barrel, intended for transport and storage but discovered to impart more, or less, subtle flavors. For the next two millennia, farmers and vintners massaged wine's every step from the field (vine spacing) to the table (container closure) to nurture fruit into a potable product. Note: not delicious, mind you, simply potable.

In the 1900s, wine took crucial and divergent directions.

In Europe, age-old technique was codified into law (such as France's AOC), designed to identify and protect each region's typical flavors. Note: not delicious, simply typical.

In the U.S., with "how to make wine" books for technique and little regulation, producers decided to make wine that was potable, sometimes typical, but always with flavors that people wanted to drink (i.e. purchase.)

That Yankee spirit yielded spectacular success with oceans of well-made values (from wineries such as Gallo and Sebastiani) and ripe, food-enhancing elegance (Clos du Val, Trefethen and recently Landmark Vineyards.)

It also yielded the sweetened Chardonnay, "white" Merlot and the over-oaked everything of McWine.

Today, U.S. sales are drifting back to Old World wines with lower alcohol, higher natural acidity and unique, regional flavors. …

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