Friday, August 7, 2015

Architectural construct for Clark Smith's postmodern winemaking concept

In his book postmodern winemaking, author Clark Smith advances " a new vision of the winemaker's craft ..." but that vision, and the associated underpinnings, are spread randomly throughout the book. As the first step in what will be a lengthy examination of the proposed concepts, I have attempted to gather the scattered elements into a single place and to organize them in a manner which will aid me in my endeavor.

My framing attempt is captured in the graphic below which arranges the postmodern descriptions into groupings of elements. The relevant text from the authors work is reproduced below the figure.

Foundational Elements
The first grouping -- Foundational Elements -- captures the philosophical underpinnings of the system, its intentions, and guiding principles.

Postmodern Definition
Smith's definition of postmodern winemaking first appears on page 16 of the text and goes thusly: "The practical art of connecting the human soul to the soul of a place by rendering its grapes into liquid music."

Postmodern Objectives
The postmodern objectives, as described by Smith, are as follows:
  • To decentralize the embedded myths that shape modern winemaking but fail to serve winemakers well. These pedagogies include:
    • The application of the solution model, a model that is injurious to wine quality
      • Solution model behavior is not just incorrect, it is undesirable
      • The extent to which wine deviates from "ideal" behavior (as pursued by the solution model) is a pretty useful working definition of quality (p. 23)
    • The direct link between chemical and microbial compositions on the one hand and flavor on the other
    • The use of component aromatics as preferred drivers for quality (p. 11)
  • To merge all the wine's flavors into a coherent whole, like a well-conducted orchestra producing a unified, soulful voice (p. 27)
  • To capture what nature has put in the vineyard's grapes and present it with grace and balance (p. 32)
  • Accessing the mysterious language via which wine communicates subtle emotional messages (p. 135).

Postmodern Tenets/Views
  • We seek to work within the condition of the modernity, incorporating what is useful while moving beyond the hubris of the modern mindset (p. 5)
  • Postmodern wine should not conform to expectations (p. 9)
  • The experience of wine is not actually in the bottle; rather, wine resonates in tandem with its consumer according to the environment of consumption. This interaction possesses features of resonance, harmony and dissonance that are strongly shared and for which "predictive" strategies can be employed (p. 10)
  • Respect for diversity (p. 15)
  • Place premium on quality over image (p. 52)
  • Never use a technique or additive that you aren't willing to disclose and defend (p. 57)
  • Wine's chemical properties does not determine its sensory properties (p. 150)
  • Pragmatism (p. 152)
  • Careful examination of the consequences of innovation and thoughtful auditing for what may have gotten lost in the shuffle aesthetically (p. 188)
  • Suspended structures in wine contains its essence and their exact nature determines wine's ability to touch us in a special, soulful way (p. 202)
  • Wine is a solution containing suspended colloids that are the source of texture, soulfulness, and aromatic integration (p. 206)
Postmodern Principles
On page 77, the author refers to postmodern principles and mentioned the following as one of those principles: "Flavor finesse is achieved through fineness of texture." I was unable to uncover any additional identified principles prior to or post this reference.

Functional Elements
In this section I gathered together the elements which I felt were directly associated with winemaking.

Postmodern Practices
  • Use of organic principles
  • Pick ripe but not overripe
  • Lees incorporation to enhance structural fineness
  • Shape polyphenols that are as small as possible, thus forming into small colloids that maximize surface area and promote hydrophilic/hydrophobic interaction (p. 132)
  • Resolve microbial balance prior to bottling so sterility is unnecessary (p. 203)
According to Smith, these postmodern practices eliminate many of the problems (excessive tannins, bitterness, vegetal aromas, microbial spoilage) that conventional winemakers obsess about (p. 28).

The challenge that the postmodern winemaker faces is the "proclivity of well-extracted, properly ripe musts grown on living soils to produce sulfides.

Postmodern Toolkit
The tools (when used in pursuit of postmodern objectives) which set the postmodern winemaker apart from the modern are as follows:
  • Reverse osmosis
  • Ultrafiltration
  • Micro-oxygenation
  • Oak chips
  • Electrodialysis
  • Crossflow clarification
Postmodern Skill Requirements
  • Control of tannin polymerization
Postmodern Action Item
The author calls on postmodern winemakers to "place a high priority on understanding and evaluating the diverse menu of deacidification options that are soon to be thrown on our plates."

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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