Winemakers & the Mother Bear Syndrome
It’s the ultimate tasting-among-winemakers "No No". And I committed it.
Actually I’ve committed this particular sin on a number of occasions. It’s just that I’ve become accustomed to the evil looks and dismissive head-shaking, so I keep doing it…Because it’s fun.
Winemakers are protective, very protective, of not just their own concoctions, but of their colleagues’ wines too. I think it’s akin to being a Motherhood thing. The wines are their spawn. They’ve worked hard to bring them into the world. You don’t mess with them. And when they see someone mess with a wine, whether it’s their baby or not, winemakers get a little irked.
The winemaker across from me got irked the other day. I could see it in her eyes the way they became saucer-like, the way her lips pursed, and the way she remained silent then turned her back and swiftly left he tasting. I think she was particularly upset with the obvious child-like look of playfulness on my face as I completely obliterated three of her colleagues’ wines.
What had I done? I blended together parts of three different, finished wines into one glass to make, essentially, a different wine. The varietal was Chardonnay. the appellation was Russian River Valley. The final product: All my own.
I was at a tasting where 10 RRV chards were being evaluated by winemakers and other trade types. It was a typical tasting of this sort: taste through them all blind, take notes, then talk about them. It was an interesting tasting. As always, winemakers can be brutal when tasting wines, even if their own wine is in the tasting.
But there were these three wines: one was pretty darn acidic and carried an intense citrus core. Another was one of those big, over the top, oaky buttery numbers. And the final one was one of the new unoaked, tropical-fruit driven wines. They were begging to be blended. And If I do say so, the final wine I blended into one glass was pretty good.
I do this sort of thing a lot towards the end of a tasting. Call it childish. Some have identified it as the "control freak" in me. But winemakers just don’t like. They don’t like he idea of someone adulterating their product they have worked so hard to create. I don’t know if this kind of protectiveness extends to other professions. I don’t know if chefs get upset if I create forkful of their lamb shank with the garlic mashed potatoes on the plate. I don’t know if the makers of Pepsi and Schweppes get upset when I combine their two products in glass.
I suppose I should be more considerate when the winemaker who produced the wine that I diluted with another is sitting across from me. It’s not as though I’m telling them that their wine is no good. I’m not even telling them that I made their wine a little better. I’m just playing.
The lesson is this: winemakers are a combination mother, artist and technician. The mother in them is protective and their artistic side makes them somewhat ego driven. Be prepared for an an ugly look if you choose to harm their baby or adulterate their creation.