Appealing to the common wine drinker – Like Me

I have got to be honest, I am getting a bit disillusioned by the overuse of wine terms such as natural, authentic, minimalistic, pure expression and so on and so forth, as well as mystified by some of the wine prices commanded out there by top wineries. What exactly is natural wine-making, pure expression and authentic, to me these are just well thought out P.R slogans that justify the rarity and sometimes price tag that goes along with it.

What I would not give to read the back of a wine label and see something like this.

“Mother Nature just did not cooperate this year, she did everything she could to ruin my grapes, which meant I had to spray for mildew, use insecticides to control the Japanese beetle and picked early to avoid losing all my fruit to the wildlife. Sorry folks, no organic viticulture here, even though I would love to market that to you. In the winery I added sugar to increase the brix, but then the alcohol was out of whack and had to use spinning cone technology to ensure the wine was balanced. I used reverse osmosis to remove some unwanted VA and used some oak chips instead of expensive barrels to impart some oak and tannin. The wine was sterile filtered and fined; and our cork is not natural because we have issues with T.C.A. This manner of wine making will beat natural wine making this year but I promise to be less intrusive next year, unless Mother Nature throws a wrench in the works.”

Now that is a bottle of wine I will buy, maybe because I can relate to all the issues a winemaker and vineyard manager faces during the course of the growing season.

But we have two very different sides of the coin here, because there is truth in that some of the best wines in the world are pure expressions of the best vintages, the best vineyards; that truly convey a sense of place. I think this is true specifically in Burgundy, home to some of the most ethereal Pinot Noirs in the world.  Take Domaine de la Romanee-Conti, truly one of the most iconic wine names in the world, producing some of the rarest, effusive and priciest.  How can we begin to explain why the La Tache’, Echezeaux and Richebourg wines are so distinctively different. We can speak of Terroir, the soul of the vineyard, the limestone, gravel and clay soils or the deft hand of the winemaker, but to truly understand the wine, you need to taste it and at a few thousand bucks a bottle, I probably never will. Oh and by the way, my friends do not roll that way.

To say it is just booze in a bottle is sacrilegious for us oenophiles, but to someone who just enjoys a bottle of wine every now and again, it is just that; and wine booze can be bought for $2 at Trader Joe’s. Might I add as well, for that price point the wine is not half bad. For all the smoke and mirrors of marketing gurus and label experts, it is really sad that the world of fine wine is reserved only for millionaires and billionaires, excluding most of us wine lovers who really cannot afford to drop that kind of dough, and then explain it to the wife or husband. “But honey this is worth $3000 a bottle and in ten-years will probably be more like $8000, so I really got it at a 65% discount”.

A few years ago at a seafood restaurant in South Africa, the sommelier told me my wine and food did not match and that I would be better served to order something else, and may he give me a recommendation. UH, no you may not and for your information I like fish and feel like a Shiraz today thank you very much.

Is wine not supposed to be about fun, creating memories and sharing it with you people you love being around, telling stories as you polish off your third bottle without even noticing it. One of the best bottles of wine I ever had was the Watcher Shiraz 2008, around $20 and who cares what the wine rating was. What made it special was that I was with my wife in our new house, sitting in camping chairs, eating pizza and chatting; more like getting tipsy and laughing hysterically, but you get the point.  Yes, I have had a 100 point wine spectator rated wine, had a wine costing over a $1000 [thanks Al] and even had a wine that was 200 years old, all wonderful but cannot compare with the emotional attachment I have to “The Watcher” made by Fetish wines. Hopefully I will get a few bottles in the mail after that endorsement.

So want a wine to be more authentic, how about this.

“This wine tastes good so have it whenever, wherever and with whatever you like, just enjoy it with someone you enjoy being around. Do not worry that it is a Monday night, for there will be another bottle on the shelf waiting for you and it will not cost you an arm and a leg..Try this Chardonnay with a medium rare steak or this Cabernet with some seafood, but whatever yo do, please just enjoy it”.

I applaud the efforts of wine makers and growers out there, I know first hand how incredibly difficult this job is, I just wish I could afford some of your wines In the market place.

Best Regards

Stephen Barnard


Keswick Vineyards