Wines of Humility
Winefairy.com has produced an outstanding interview with Jonathon Nossiter (you can listen to it at the winefairy website), director of the controversial film Mondovino and chief propagandist for Romance.
In the interview, conducted by Wine Fairy Lynn Chamberlain, Nossiter makes a statement that should be understood by anyone who believes wine is best when it reflects the terroir where it was made. Nossiter suggests that the meaning of terroir should be amended to mean the culture and traditions of a wine’s region that have developed over the centuries.
Terror is not just the influence of the soil, climate and terrain where the grapes were grown. No. In Nossiter’s world, a wine will reflect the way of life that has developed around the vineyard and in the region where the vineyard sits.
Fortunately for Nossiter, he doesn’t try to describe how culture influences the taste or structure of a village Burgundy. He’s a smart man. You simple can’t do that because in large part this notion of his is fanciful romanticism. But it’s a notion that has implications that explain why he’s so biased against new world wineries.
If "Terroir" is, as Nossiter says, as much made up by hundreds of years of tradition and culture as it is by soils and climates, then clearly any country that does not have centuries of winemaking under its belt can’t make "artisan," terroir-driven wines. Leave that to the Old World countries.
In the interview with the Wine Fairy, Nossiter puts an exclamation point on this notion by referring specifically to wines of Mendocino. He explains that this is one region that does make wonderful wines that don’t necessarily conform to the global taste. Yet, he implies they simply have not been around long enough to really offer wines of terroir. But wait. That’s OK. You see, these wines from Mendocino that he likes…well, according to Nossiter you can "Taste the Humility" in them.
"Taste their Humility". He likes these wines because in his mind they don’t ape the big, juicy, fruit forward wines that in his mind are what the global tastemasters are pushing and which will kill wine. Clearly he hasn’t tasted many Mendocino wines. There are any number of BIG pinots coming from Anderson Valley. But the point that irks me is this notion that even though Mendocino is a region too young to offer any real terroir, they still make charming wines with great "humility. Those Mendocino winemakers know their place.
What Nossiter is doing with Mondovino I don’t think he realizes. He is stripping away all meaning from the idea of Terroir for the sake of making a romantic, anti-marketing, farce of a film.
This is bad for wine, bad for consumers who drink up this notion and probably bad for the film maker’s conscience.