Less is More

by Dirk Niepoort

There are basically two aproaches: “terroir” makes a great wine and a winemaker makes a great wine (let’s assume that a great winemaker makes great wine)

I believe totally in the first and oldfashioned theory; the name winemaker says it all: the one who makes the wine. In the past, the “winemakers” were not known by that name but as cellar master, or something similar.

I believe the duty of a “winemaker”, or maybe “wine educator” is a better term, involves having the technical knowledge while trying to understand the grapes, the soil and the area, as well as the terroir, and then adapting those winemaking skills in order to create a wine that expresses its full potential, rather than making the wine just the way they want.

In modern times, we have so many technical choices, machines, equipment and vinological products that even though the possibilities seem to be greater, the wines seem to increasingly taste more artificial and similar. There can be no doubt that the average quality has increased and less faulty wines are sold, but the wines are becoming more and more undrinkable – to the point where they are heavy, sweet, fat, dark, over-extracted and over-oaked – and in reality one just does not want to drink them.

I think the time has come to back up a little and try to do less instead of too much. We have to forget some things that we learned at university, such as the fact that we have to crush the grapes after de-stemming – and whether we actually have to de-stem at all – just to extract more colour.

In fact, I find it extraordinary that in reality 90% of our winemaking decisions are taken in order to extract colour (from the red wines). For most wine educators, it is almost impossible to take decisions without thinking about the extraction of colour; indeed, if one made red wine while eliminating all the decisions based on colour, one would most probably have a much better and more interesting fine wine.

 We have to make wines that are digest, which is a very French word that says it all.  We should make wines that make you feel good and which make your stomach happy.

I believe in wines that have character, identity and balance, as well as some edginess and freshness in their youth, and which dispel a lot of unnecessary fruitiness (modern wines are too fruity, while freshness is what it is all about).

My vision is to learn from the old, as older people that know the traditions and habits of certain areas, and combine that empiric wisdom with modern knowledge.


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