I said I'd be following up with more about David Darlington's delicious new wine book called An Ideal Wine. Here are some of my favorite tidbits, trends, and quotes from the book. I'm sharing them in the hopes you'll want the whole enchilada after you taste these appeteasers.
1. INDUSTRIAL VERSUS ARTISANAL
Randall Grahm/Bonny Doon:
"There are basically two wine businesses - industrial and artisanal. An artisanal wine is largely, if not entirely, predicated on the quality of a particular vineyard site. That's what makes it distinctive...Industrial wine can still be very good wine, but it's not predicated on the distinctiveness of the site - it's predicated on the cleverness of the winemaker as blender...In the New World, we're basically making wines on the industrial model. All of our sites are hit or miss, because we haven't had time to determine what is a great vineyard."
2. TO TERROIR OR NOT TO TERROIR - THAT IS THE QUESTION
Randall Grahm/Bonny Doon:
"...unfortunately we [in California] can't say that we're trying to capture the terroir. After all, we're drip irrigating in a sandy desert that gets six inches of rainfall a year."
3. ALCHEMY MADE EASY
"Wine scientists always thought grapes were more complicated than any other plant system...They had this Carl Sagan attitude that there were billions and billions of chemical compounds out there. But from an evolutionary point of view, there are less than four hundred compounds in it that are detectable by people, and only thirty or forty that are responsible for the distinguishing characteristics in different 'genres' like cabernet and pinot noir."
4. TANNIN SOUFLES ANYONE?
"Most winemakers today cling to the notion of doing the minimum as if benign neglect is some sort of high moral ground...We would all prefer to do nothing, but I have to micro-ox to make the kinds of wines I want to make..."
"Oxygen is the wire whisk with which we create a tannin soufle."
5. MODERN WINEMAKING VERSUS THE APPELLATION
Nicholas Joly - Darlington describes him as "convinced that modern winemaking practices obliterate the underpinnings of the appellation concept."
"An appellation is a place where a plant can fully express its qualities. It's like when a musician finds the acoustics of a place to be good for singing. But terroir is true only if the soil is alive - if the soil is destroyed, the microclimate isn't caught by the vines, and then you need technology to get good flavor.
I think the consumer has a right to know the process that was used to make the wine - like when the label on a bottle of orange juice says 'from concentrate.' If a wine is made by reverse osmosis, its label should say 'concentrated wine.'"
6. (BD) PREPS ARE THE EASY PART
"The easy part of biodynamics is the preparations. The part that's difficult is the farming practices and organizational structure...the preps, are at most 25 percent of the system. Using preps in a monoculture is Napa biodynamics."
7. COVER CROPS ARE LIKE THE GAS PEDAL
"...cover crops...are like the gas pedal. If you want less vigor from the vines, you grow grass. If you want more vigor, grow legumes. If you want to be on cruise control, grow clover."