It’s tempting to try and control - or at the very least predict - the outcome of our work. We set out with an idea, like a painter in front of a blank canvas, and we get to work to transform the image in our mind into something real and tangible to show to the world.
Take for example the chicken in the picture at the top of this page. I thought that Alison Roman’s roast chicken with buttered tomatoes would be the perfect pairing for my friend Claire Hill’s stunning Mourvèdre. What I didn’t plan on was that I would accidentally roast it upside down. (If you remember, I have a newborn at home and haven’t slept in months.) But you know what, it turned out better than ever! The breasts were slow roasting in garlicky, tomatoey goodness the entire time, making them the most tender and melt-in-your-mouth bites you could imagine.
I called Claire to admit my mistake and we had a great laugh because you know what, her Mourvèdre was a happy accident as well. She set out to make a Bandol style rosé initially. She knew exactly how she wanted it to look, smell, and taste, and then… the vineyard had a different plan. When she tasted the grapes at harvest, the acidity level just wasn’t there to make the style of wine she’d envisioned, so she did what a great winemaker should do - she made the wine those grapes were meant to become. Another producer would have simply added tartaric acid and carried on according to plan, but according to Claire, “that would force it into an unnatural direction.”
So many winemakers today have a particular style of wine they are trying to emulate. Perhaps they’re trying to model the wine of a mentor. Maybe they are trying to emulate a style that garners high points and high price tags. Either way, it’s not authentic to the terroir - the soil, the climate, and the conditions that make each and every harvest unique. The job of a great winemaker is to simply nurture a wine into becoming its best self - in that way, it’s more like parenting a child than designing a building.