Ξ December 21st, 2010 | → 3 Comments | ∇ A Day at a Time, Wine News |
As I make my way through the holiday season, one thing has becomes very clear: work slows to a trickle. But the mind is a wondrous thing; despite counsel from the East to the contrary, it can never truly be at rest. So, for readers interested on what is next from yours truly, I offer the following sketch of forthcoming stories.
My visit to beautiful Porto, Portugal earlier this month as a guest of ViniPortugal was brief but punctuated by moments of rich experience. The Wines of Portugal International Conference (WOPIC) was ostensibly concerned with speculation about the potential of Touriga Nacional to take its place at the international table as one of Portugal’s flagship indigenous grape varieties. Much ink has been spilled about the difficulty of marketing Portuguese wines with unpronounceable names, the disquiet they may provoke, especially in the minds of North American consumers; so, too, has Portuguese winemaking history been isolated as a potential obstacle for slick, stream-lined promotional campaigns. The argument runs something like this: inasmuch as the consumer wishes only to enjoy a bottle of wine, then ‘history’, an epic saga in Portugal’s case, can only interfere if not properly shaped to an increasingly parsimonious intellectual appetite already adrift in a ‘wine-dark sea’ of quality wine. And upon this sea we consumers bob on our life-raft, and after briefly swapping stories of the disaster that brought us to this moment, we need only to dip our cup. So the argument goes.
Moreover, in an era of sound bites, instantaneous reaction via the internet, the rise of the citizen journalist, and, quite simply, the noise of our daily lives, it becomes increasingly difficult to think our own history let alone that of a nation neglected from the beginning, even by the North American school system. And elsewhere? The comings and goings of the Queen of England and her brood command headlines. History, no? So perhaps Portugal stands as an example of a certain kind of imaginative failure of the balance of the West itself. Yes, perhaps ‘history’ is a buzz kill. But every invader first sacks a city. For this is history, too.
So, one of my first efforts to come will be tackling this sprawling topic. I have a special interest here because of a documentary, presently being edited, on historical Portuguese wines which, when released in late Spring I hope will constructively add to the discussion.
I will also be reporting on one on the finer presentations given at WOPIC, that of Willi Klinger, Managing Director of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board and that country’s wine ambassador par excellance. His talk deftly brought into focus the interests and challenges shared by both Austria and Portugal. In his succinct, self-deprecating speech, he successfully teased out the most important features of the marketing landscape confronting a smaller, lesser know country wishing to put bottles on the tables of the world, and without sacrificing heritage. Equally important was his reflection on the necessary structural changes that must occur within a country for it to have a chance. Cooperation between hitherto isolated bureaucracies is the critical first step.
Another subject following upon my recent Porto explore will be a detailed account of one of the very few biodynamic properties in Portugal, Projecto Afros. Located in the wilds of Vinho Verde, their substantial holdings are centered on the production of Loureiro, a beautiful white variety, and Vinhão, an intense red, both grown in granitic soils. Founded by Lisbon-born Vasco Croft, Projecto Afros is at once an experiment and a vindication that gentler, more environmentally sensitive practices may be put to use even in this region of rain and humidity. Indeed, no less a publication that The Independent named one of theirs as among the 10 best ethical wines.
A proper account of Quinta de Villar d’Allen in Porto will put my narrative skills to the test. This august name in the glorious history of Port wines, a name suspended for quite some time, now has recently returned to production, releasing their first bottling just weeks ago. Imbued with an expansive curiosity, employing a first-rate winemaker, and driven to produce only the highest quality wines, Quinta de Villar d’Allen’s story of the long road back to excellence will, it is hoped, prove compelling.
More general topics to soon come will include Biodiversity, Monsanto, and an unconventional interview with the brilliant Robin Goldstein, co-author, along with Alexis Hershkowitsch, of The Wine Trials. (The book, btw, makes for an excellent Christmas gift!) I shall also be following with great interest Randall Grahm’s exploration of biochar. My understanding is that he plans to visit Peter Schmidt in February. For more on the subject of biochar and Herr Schmidt please see this and this.
Merry Christmas to all.