Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Defining the Art of Winemaking

Exploring VA Wines

By Doug Fabbioli

Defining the Art of Winemaking

Winemaking takes a lot of science, a good bit of artistic creativity and, although many don’t like to talk about it, a fair amount of challenging business sense. And it’s all based on the fruit that the winery grows or can buy and turning that into wines that the customers will buy. In an ideal winemaking world customers would buy all the wine the winemaker makes, and the winemaker would be able to grow and use all of the grapes they need. But that’s not realistic. Many times, more grapes grow of a certain variety than the customers are buying, so the winemaker needs to find a home for the grapes they don’t need. Buying and selling grapes at harvest time is an important part of the business of a winemaker. Later in the process, they can sell off excess wine after their own blends are made, or purchase someone else’s excess to use.

Sometimes, a winemaker tries to get creative with the extra grapes, making new styles of wines or blends in order to utilize that fruit: what can I make from what I have extra of and can I repeat that style of wine in the future? Chambourcin, for example, is a grape that grows very well in our region and I usually have more grapes than I need for our dry Chambourcin. We sell a fair amount of the grapes to another local winery for their Rosé, I started making our Paco Rojo, a Chambourcin-based blend, about 10 years ago and it is now one of our best selling wines, and recently I started making a sparkling wine out of this grape as well. Having some extra wine in the cellar can add to my creative abilities as a consulting winemaker for other wineries, too. Many wineries start up without an established vineyard to produce enough for their market—having a little extra to play with helps me help them.

Some wines are true expressions of the place where the grapes were grown, actually showing the unique soil conditions and climate through the wine characteristics in the glass. Other wines are made to fill a market from the grapes available in a region. They are both important products, but clearly different. Some wineries may sell off anything that does not fit the upper tier for their label. In many cases, though, wineries need both in order to make their business sustainable, and create more approachable wines to utilize all the grapes in a positive way. You might refer to these wines as “Tuesday wines” while winemakers may think of them as “Chateau de Cashflow.” That’s not a bad thing: if a wine is balanced in taste, stable in its science, and fills a place with the consumer, we are glad to see it being made. Hopefully, understanding the winemaker’s goals will help you connect better with the wine, whether it’s one of those beautiful special occasion wines or an easy, any day of the week wine. Remember, your patronage is what makes it possible for wineries to continue making the best they can from their land, so be sure to savor and enjoy each wine you purchase.

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