Thursday, December 24, 2015

2015 Blog Year in Review: Part I, postmodern winemaking

I met Clark Smith three years ago at the Digital Wine Communications Conference 2013, which was held in Logrono, Spain. I ran into him initially at the BYOB party and had some interaction centered around me borrowing his corkscrew to open my wine bottle,. At the time I did not know who he was or or that he was a scheduled presenter at the conference.

I ran into him again the following day and he indicated that someone had borrowed his corkscrew and not returned it. He was bemoaning the loss because (i) it was an expensive piece and (ii) it had sentimental value. For the record, I had returned the corkscrew to him after my usage. At that time I was still unaware of who he was.

I remained clueless as to his identity until the keynote speakers were announced -- Arto Koskelo and Clark Smith -- and my "buddy" strode onto the stage. Arto spoke first and was well received (He is an insider and he had a good story.). Things, however, went downhill fast when Clark began his presentation. And the audience, uncharacteristically, became more hostile the longer he spoke. Words like "wine manipulator" and other such epithets were being hurled in Clark's direction and, during the question and answer session very pointed questions were directed at him. My assessment? It did not go well for Clark. But he seemed oblivious to this fact and carried on through the rest of the conference in an unfazed manner.

At the conclusion of the conference, I overnighted at the Holiday Inn Express at Bilbao Airport as I had an early flight out on Monday. I had gone into town for dinner and, on my return, saw Clark Smith and Doug Frost MS MW checking into the hotel. They were going to be doing dinner in the hotel's restaurant and I joined them for a drink. We had a scintillating, informative, and funny discussion that lasted deep into the night. Doug eventually left and Clark and I carried on. He was very impressive and had more stories than Hans Christian Andersen. I revisited and revised my assessment of him and decided that I would buy his book (postmodern winemaking) and review it on my blog.

And I did. Buy the book, that is. After I begun reading it, I realized that I was insufficiently equipped to credibly review this book. There was a gap -- large enough to drive a Mack truck through -- between my Level 3 WSET knowledge and the material contained in the book; a gap that would need to be filled if I wanted to be able to review this work. So I signed up for the UC Davis Winemaking Certificate Program and successfully completed the requirements in June of this year.

Once I had completed the program, I turned back to the book, but now with a more ambitious objective. Rather than just review the effort, I would evaluate/critique its concepts vis a vis "modern" winemaking principles and practices, the knowledge of which I had acquired in my recent studies. I have written a fair number of posts as I work towards fulfillment of this goal.

The first step was to gather the scattered elements into a single place and to organize them in a manner which would aid me in the endeavor. I next explored what Smith saw as the problem with modern wines and the path that led to this place. Once these foundations had been laid I proceeded to graphically compare postmodern and modern winemaking and to more closely delineate the elements of postmodern winemaking.

The quantity and quality of phenolic compounds (especially tannins, anthocyanins, and co-factors) in the wine (post-fermentation) and the interaction of those compounds, are critical elements in the postmodern winemaking process as laid out by Clark Smith. Before delving into these phenolic interactions, I provided background discussion on grape- and oak-derived tannins, the biosynthesis of anthocyanins, and anthocyanin content as a source of color in red wines.

This is a slow process because of the need to research and post background material so that the reader is equipped to follow along as the assessment proceeds. I will continue the background provision with tannin-anthocyanin polymerization in my next post in this series and then get into the meat of the initial critical aspect of postmodern winemaking. I estimate that my efforts in this area will be spread out over the better part of the upcoming year.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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