Winemaker is not a merchant, but a trendsetter

Winemaker is not a merchant, but a trendsetter

The eternal alliance of interested parties, and the eternal conflict of interests characterizes the community of those who sells and produces wine. Merchants make sure that the price and perception of wine always lie within the range of wide customer tastes. Winemakers are also interested in sales growth, but their professional desire to break out of tight framework pushes them to experiments and search for their own style. This is the paradigm of the unity of opposites, if not to get into details of the market and the subjective qualities of people.

Last thirty years of the struggle for customer sympathy have forced the wine merchants to abandon a pragmatic worldview and put the horse of winemaking in front but not behind of a customer’s cart. The wine merchants of Burgundy were among the first ones who began to do that. For centuries they bought wine from small vineyards, mixed it, customized it to so-called “local home style” and sold it around the world. But when tourist waves began to bring millions of people to the lands of beautiful Burgundy, and they were personally convinced that not dozens but thousands of wineries and chateaux meet the Burgundy style, the mass production using the same template became impossible. Then the merchants began to acquire vineyards, refit their wineries to present the wine with their own face to the market. Therefore, winemaking history textbook contains an important lesson. People endorse a variety of approaches to wine and always require merchants to provide them with the original of every type rather than a typical mix under a romantic brand.

Although, judging by the arguments of the Ukrainian discussions, we clearly overestimate the progressive qualities of wine merchants. In some countries these are the companies that purchase the wine material and “bring” it to wine. We hear from the representatives of this community the phrases about specific features of national demand, about the mass preferences of fortified and semi-sweet wine, and that European standards do not correspond to our mentality.

In search of truth, as one famous Odessa resident said, it is not necessary to diligently examine your navel. Sometimes it’s worth looking at other people’s stomachs. More recently, Australia, which was a territory for the settlement of criminal elements, something like of world-wide Siberia, produced exclusively fortified wine. It filled to capacity not only the domestic market, but also the export portfolio. There was even such a joke that the British drink Australian fortified wine more than the French drink their own dry wine. By the way the Australians fortified their wine with brandy and did not neglect to add beet sugar there. The reason was, maybe, that the beets did not grow. However, a relatively pure product for approximately 20 years, since 1955 up to 1975 was unclaimed. Why? Australian reforms created preferences for dry wine producers as part of a government program to reduce the consumption of alcohol. I like the phrase of one of the wine experts, that characterized the period of changing priorities in Australia in the 70s. Unexpectedly, he wrote, “wine from a very hot region does not have to look like overcooked jelly”. But before customers have discovered it, hundreds of Australian wineries created their own types of wines. They did not go with the flow of a straight and quiet river of the established market, and did not entrust the merchants with the creative essence of their craft. They undertook to reveal the natural potential of their land. Each individually and all together. I have been to Australia, and this geographically remote continent is similar to us by the initial conditions for starting the industry. Australians have invented many tricks and methods to improve the wine producers and customers’ attitude. Let’s mention “Label Integrity Program” – long-term monitoring of advertising labels compliance with the quality of the bottles contents. It also contributed to the individualization of wines.

A winemaker risks more than a merchant. Winemaker depends on the whims of nature, on technological and economic stability, on the retail stores marketing policy… Frosts threaten to destroy the vine, an accident on power supply lines in hot weather can lead to a complete loss of the reserve and stored wine. If the wines are overheated during transportation or in the storages, the producer is also responsible. There are only two things in winemaker’s arsenal that determine the meaning and prestige of his work: a vineyard and his own view of wine. Only they endow production with individual traits, and only they are able to win the steady sympathies of customers. Therefore, the level and quality of winemaking in the country is not determined by the area of vineyards and the volume of wine sold. Throughout England, mainly in South Wales, there is a little more than a thousand hectares of vines. But in any wine guide Muller Torgau from foggy Albion takes an honorable place and the English Vineyards Association inscription on the labels has the same meaning as the French AOC. Therefore I am convinced that the effectiveness of reforms in the domestic winemaking industry it is worth evaluating by increasing the variety and styles that are different from each other, but made on the basis of common technological standards for wines. After all, we do not just sell wine, but we demonstrate our skills, knowledge, philosophy and state of mind in the market. In other words, we dictate fashion.