“Big Business” Wines Are Proper and Have No Soul

I was recently inspired by the Sauvignon Blanc episode of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on DVD. During the lesson, Jancis traveled to the Loire Valley in France and spoke to its rebel winemaker, Didier Daugeneau “The Wild Man of Pouilly-Fume.”

The things that struck me so much about this interview were these key points that Didier made to Jancis:

Big business wines are proper and have no soul. They are technically correct and well-made, but have no heart, no terroir, no identity.

Wine is more than a drink, when you want pleasure, you drink wine. I make wine to give people pleasure. To me, wine is art and an expression of the artist.

Yes! One of the most attractive things about exploring new wines and regions of my favorite varietals is the excitement of experiencing the winemakers’ individual expressions of it. I am now beginning to understand that the corporate, accessible wines that were a majority of the wines I purchased in the past are drinkable in most cases, but lack the hand-crafted and loving individual elements that I am coming to appreciate and seek out now that I understand how much more soulful and gratifying these wines are.

Have you had a similar breakthrough in your wine appreciation?

PS-Thank you to wine educator Kathleen Lisson for the recommendation of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on her blog.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Paul on July 30, 2008 at 11:12 am

    One that amuses me about American wines is the ‘blending’. Most traditional European wines are single grape, often even single hillside, making the product, more distinct and at the same time more fragile – a bad growing year means a poor wine.

    To my ‘somewhat snobbish’ tastes the whole concept of blending is somewhat akin to a ‘photoshopped wine’ – it still takes skill, but it isn’t real. It is no longer the culmination of a multi-year battle between man and nature to grow the best grapes and make the best product.

    But then again – what do I know, I don’t make it, I only drink it 🙂


  2. A lot of corporate wines are ‘soul-less’ for want of a better desciption. They’ve determined what the public will accept and that’s where they put their resources. Some of these big corporate producers make some of the world’s best wine. Small producers who have the luxury of having ‘artists’ make their wine and still sell it all, are in a great position. Properly marketed, they can usually sell all the inspired individuality they can make (no matter how unique it tastes).
    I like to keep an open mind and palate. I don’t care if it comes out of a factory and a formula or from a single barrel in some hippie’s basement; it only has one test to pass. Is it what I like?

    I have to call “Bullshit” on Paul’s previous comment. I don’t know where he gets his information, but some of world’s finest wines, Old World and New, are blended. I’m not going to start listing them; look them up.

    The concept of single block, single vineyard is a highly successful marketing strategy first championed by some of the seminal California wineries beginning in the 1960’s. To their credit, they created a public awareness that turned into a requirement: you gotta put the grape on the label.

    Blending isn’t a mash-up. And winemaking and vine growing isn’t a battle. Blending is the most difficult and most rewarding activity a wine maker can perform.

    Paul, if you’re going to finish your comments with
    “what do I know . . .?” why start in the first place?


  3. I have to agree with Bradley: blending is difficult yet rewarding, and it’s often regarded as the highest art of winemaking. Plus, the Old World got a 500-year headstart at it.


  4. I have to give props to my man Brad here. I would have to say that most of the best wines in the world are blended, not the other way around.

    And blending is the darkroom of the winemaker (to borrow the photography metaphor). Anybody can make a straight print, and sometimes it will be fantastic without any retouching, burning, dodging, etc.

    However, it takes a true master of the craft to create a blend that is greater than the sum of its parts.


  5. I’m glad you liked Jancis Robinson!


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