Clark Smith: #DWCC13 Keynote

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Is our ongoing reliance on flavour-wheels, WSET standard notes and 100-point scales holding us back? If we can free ourselves from excess baggage, from having to repeat the same clichés in order to be taken seriously, might it also liberate the wine commentator to finally “think different”? Would it also allow winemakers to experiment more openly to create better wines and encourage a more open exchange between wineries and consumers?

Clark will come to present his view on this subject, and his call to develop a new, effective language of flavour and style.

Presentation owned and copywritten by Clark Smith 2013

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  • I thank you for inviting me to speak to such a passionate and discerning audience. I aspire, in thirty minutes, to recreate the wine world together.
  • The growing disconnect between winemakers and wine lovers has the flavor of a bad marriage.Wine is a complex and highly technical craft.  Winemakers have been very poor communicators, and desperately need your help. The distinction between Vinsd’Effort and Vins de Terroir does not exist. Wine does not make itself. It takes a lot of effort to be invisible, and even more to do nothing. Benign neglect is not the moral high ground.
  • Increased competition (More secrecy)Technological revolution (Greater difficulty in understanding, let alone explaining)Paradigm shift in enology (Shifting understanding of what wine actually is)A Social Revolution in Ethics (The new consumerism requires honesty, conscience)Failure rate for technology (Fukushima, GMOs, viruses, spying, WMDs)Critical wine review has also undergone a metamorphosis to bloodsport
  • I wrote this book to help bridge that gap and return us to the intimate and loving relationship we enjoyed when I first entered the industry in 1972. There have been enormous changes in winemaking technology in recent years, but winemakers have become timid, simply claiming to “do the minimum.” As a result, the exuberant moral conversation on the web today is largely controlled by the ill-informed. It was my goal to articulate in plain English the issues of the day in order to facilitate productive interaction.
  • Winemakers are working very hard to re-examine what we learned in oenology school.
  • I can’t take time to go through these topics, but I hope you get the gist. We’ll spend a day discussing technical issues, beginning with the realization that winemaking is a form of cooking, and not a solution of dissolved substances, but something more like chocolate or bearnaise sauce, in which texture is critical to soulfulness.
  • The second day, we’ll grapple with philosophical issues.
  • Winemakers really do need to start operating with more candor, and I hope these explanations will help that process.  I am in the process of building a full disclosure site linked to a QR code for this purpose.  What is needed from journalists is to reciprocate this openness with a new spirit of generous listening, a challenge for the smartypants blogger. Being a smartypants myself, I hope I can show how it might be done, and even be fun.
  • For each practice, a discussion forum will be provided where winemakers can explain why they do or do not use it and consumers can ask questions.
  • Now listen to me, you bastards. Winemakers cannot be expected to come clean if you whack them when they do.
  • yeast inoculation (biogenic amines and carcinogen precursors; style considerations) micro-oxygenation, (longevity, aromatic integration, replaces fining with animal products)alcohol adjustment, (uncouples harvest maturity from brix. Fine tunes harmonic balance.)use of oak chips (curbs the silly and environmentally reprehensible practice of flavoring wine with a piece of fine oak furniture from a 200-year-old tree. Some wines benefit from discreet use of oak extractives, but these are readily obtained from carefully crafted chips. A barrel should be made to last for decades.These are examples of conversations which you have not permitted to occur, because you have made honesty too expensive.
  • There exists greater diversity of well-made wines than ever before in history, but authentic wine is not sold in grocery stores. The more options are available, the less diversity appears at retail. Blaming the Tools: Technology (“weird stuff”) is not the source of sameness. Mediocre cooking is not the stove’s fault.Critics have shirked the task of cataloguing this diversity and connecting consumers to it.
  • The Natural Wine Movement has failed to define itself. I believe that is because its members do not concur on what they care about.
  • By my estimates, there are areas of strong non-agreement within these constituencies. Health conscious persons are strongly interested in sulfite-free wines, while collectors are suspicious. Non-interventionists dislike chaptalization, while conventionalists accept it. Terroiristes insist on natural yeast fermentations, while the health conscious prefer to avoid them. Environmentalists should favor oak chips, while traditionalists reject them. Alcohol-adjusted wines are healthier and more terroir-expressive, but less authentic.
  • Consumers need to know about flavor, style and use.Less judgment and more categorization.
  • Winemakers aren’t writers. Team up with them and help tell their true stories. Specialize. Do your homework and write what you know. Be Worthy.
  • Try to confine your moralizing to matters of health and conscience, and choose the ones in which you’ve done your homework and thought things through. You are perfectly entitled to know if your wine has been fined with an animal protein, and if you rail against them, please avoid wearing leather shoes and belt when you tap those keys.
  • Wine is better and more diverse than ever in human history. Let’s replace the verticle, one-dimensional 100-point system with a horizontal flavor space that honors diversity.
  • *I do not recommend more granularity than this, because I do not believe specific flavours drive preference with rare exceptions such as butter, vanilla and Brett.
  • This is a simplified two-dimensional rendering of the multivariate flavor space. Once crated, we can place any wine in it and predict preference for an individual consumer.
  • This is a simplified two-dimensional rendering of the multivariate flavor space. Once crated, we can place any wine in it and predict preference for an individual consumer.
  • Accusing a winemaker of manipulation is like calling your wife a whore because she’s sleeping with you. We are cooks. Performing manipulations is what we do. Insist instead that we do it honestly and well. Elicit and welcome honest truth from winemakers.
  • Clark Smith: #DWCC13 Keynote

    1. 1. “The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” - George Bernard Shaw
    2. 2. Six Causes of the Bad Marriage • Increased competition • Technological revolution • Paradigm shift in enology • A social revolution in ethics • Failure rate for technology • Critical wine review has become bloodsport
    3. 3. Postmodern Winemaking Symposium Sixty winemakers rethinking the modern science of an ancient craft. November 9 & 10, 2013 Santa Rosa, CA and via Webex
    4. 4. Day 1 *Vineyard Enology: Vine balance, living soil, ripeness *Fermentation & co-extraction *Oenological oxygen *Structure building & aromatic integration *The Seven Functions of Oak *America's Exploding Winemaking Diversity *Cognitive Oenology: Wine as liquid music
    5. 5. Day 2 *Yeast Inoculation Pros and Cons *Microbial balance ("Integrated Brett Management") *Reduction: friend or foe? *Minerality *Biodynamics *Sulfite-free winemaking *Natural Wines, manipulation, & technology
    6. 6. Small Wineries Are Confused • Target the mainstream or the fringes? (10,000 cases requires passionate acceptance by only 0.0001% of the market) • What do Natural Wine consumers really want? • What is manipulation?
    7. 7. www.PostmodernWinemaking.com /full-disclosure-winemaking-practices
    8. 8. Vineyard Practices • • • • • • • • Organic Certification Biodynamic No tillage No pesticides No herbicides Irrigation Soil Food Web score Extended hang time
    9. 9. Additions • • • • • • • • • • Acid Amelioration (water addition) Tannin products Enzymes Fortification Sulfites Chaptalization GMOs Diammonium Phosphate (DAP) Copper
    10. 10. Cellar Treatments • • • • • • • • • • Bentonite Yeast / bacterial inoculum Animal products Color concentrate Velcorin Inert gas Oxygen New barrel % Non barrel oak adjuncts Barrel wheat paste contact
    11. 11. Cellar Practices • • • • • • • • • • • Organic certified winery Stainless steel only Suppressed malolactic Varietal purity Residual sugar ("dry styles") Non gravity (powered) racking Alcohol adjustment Micro-oxygenation Centrifugation Diatomaceous earth filtration Sterile filtration
    12. 12. Bottling Choices • • • • • • Closure options Recycled glass Recycled paper labels Bag in the box Glass weight and carbon footprint Appellation designation
    13. 13. ma·nip·u·la·tion (noun). 1. Treatment or operation with or as if with the hands or by mechanical means, especially in a skillful manner. 2. Shrewd or devious management by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one's own advantage.
    14. 14. A Few Controversial Topics • Yeast Inoculation • Micro-oxygenation • Alcohol adjustment via reverse osmosis • Oak chips vs. new French oak barrels
    15. 15. Misconceptions • Sameness: The Diversity Paradox • Blaming the Tools • Scoring via the 100-point system
    16. 16. Eight Natural Wine Constituencies • • • • • • • • Non-interventionist: “The best wine makes itself.” Environmentalist: “Make wine sustainably.” Conventionalist: “No weird stuff.“ Traditionalist: Prefers time-tested methods. Health Conscious: Wine should be safe and wholesome. Collector: Suspicious of experimental techniques. Authenticity Purist: No additives. “Let’s taste the flaws.” Terroiriste: Passionate about unique flavors of place.
    17. 17. How bloggers can change the world 1. Report what is in the bottle.
    18. 18. How bloggers can change the world 1. Report what is in the bottle. 2. Tell the real stories.
    19. 19. How bloggers can change the world 1. Report what is in the bottle. 2. Tell the real stories. 3. Choose your battles.
    20. 20. How bloggers can change the world 1. 2. 3. 4. Report what is in the bottle. Tell the real stories. Choose your battles. Co-create a universal language for wine flavor and style.
    21. 21. Five Step Flavour Space Developmental Plan 1. Agree on Flavour Terminology
    22. 22. Intensity Terms • • • • • • • • • • • • • Fruit Intensity Sweetness Body Tannin grain Plushness Acidity Heat Vanilla Cocoa Toast Butter Herbal Earthiness 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5 0-5
    23. 23. Holistic Terms • • • • • • • • • • • Obviousness: Generous ------------------------Austere Brightness: Energetic -------------------------Mild Dimension: Complex --------------------------Straightforward Charm: Aloof-------------------------------Inviting Allure: Pretty ------------------------------Sexy Drinkability: Ready-------------------------------Ageworthy Architecture: Angular-----------------------------Rounded Mood: Cheerful----------------------------Dour Impact: Delicate-----------------------------Striking Style: Elegant------------------------------Rustic Maturity: Fresh---------------------------------Evolved
    24. 24. Five Step Flavour Space Developmental Plan 1. Agree on Flavour Terminology 2. Characterize classic appellations and outliers 3. Computer-generated Flavour Space
    25. 25. Simplified 2-D Example Flavour Space Dolcetto Rosé d’Anjou Beaujolais Gevrey Chambertin Nero d’Avola Rosé de Provence Chianti Mosel Rheingau Alsace Savennieres Rioja Chinon Barolo Medoc Hermitage Madiran Corton Qvevri
    26. 26. Five Step Flavour Space Developmental Plan 1. 2. 3. 4. Agree on Flavour Terminology Characterize classic appellations and outliers Computer-generated Flavour Space Blog about it. Interpret the Flavour Space in human terms.
    27. 27. Five Step Flavour Space Developmental Plan 1. 2. 3. 4. Agree on Flavour Terminology Characterize classic appellations and outliers Computer-generated Flavour Space Blog about it. Interpret the Flavour Space in human terms. 5. Personal Sommelier: App that connects users to their preferences
    28. 28. Personal Sommelier app • User-named wine list categories “Fred’s Crisp Dry Whites”, “Fred’s Big Bold Reds”, etc. • Individual personal algorithms anchored to the Flavour Space
    29. 29. Simplified 2-D Example Flavour Space Dolcetto Fred’s Rich Reds Rosé d’Anjou Beaujolais Gevrey Chambertin Nero d’Avola Fred’s Dry Whites Rosé de Provence Chianti Mosel Rheingau Alsace Savennieres Rioja Chinon Barolo Medoc Hermitage Madiran Corton Qvevri
    30. 30. Personal Sommelier app • User-named wine list categories “Fred’s Crisp Dry Whites”, “Fred’s Big Bold Reds”, etc. • Individual personal algorithms anchored to the Flavour Space • Selects recommendations from wine list or shop inventory uploaded to web. • Access to peer reviews, winery stats, and awards
    31. 31. How bloggers can change the world 1. 2. 3. 4. Report what is in the bottle. Tell the real stories. Choose your battles. Co-create a universal language for wine flavor and style. 5. Junk the term “manipulation.” Please.
    32. 32. Be Worthy.
    33. 33. Thank you for your kind attention.

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