Thursday, July 3, 2014

The hail damage in Burgundy is sad, but...

Earlier this week, a violent hailstorm destroyed vineyards in Burgundy. Most wine media outlets reported on the storm. Over on WineBerserkers.com, terms like "heartbreaking" and "gut wrenching" were used in reaction to the news that 80-90% of the crop will be lost in certain vineyards. Yes, the crop destruction is sad when you think about the loss of income for hard-working farmers and their families, especially when hail destroyed a good chunk of the 2013 crop. Bottles of award-winning wine were aborted before anyone could even enjoy their existence. However, after reading the headlines and pondering for a second, the news made me smile.

Wine is agriculture and sometimes agriculture sucks. It leaves you at the whims of mother nature and she can be a bitch. Excessive heat, shattering cold and violent storms can all wreak havoc on delicate plants. Sadly, farmers lose crops all the time, all over the world. In Colorado, the 2014 grape crop is looking bleak due to winter damage caused by extreme cold temperatures. Many producers are going out of state for fruit and one, Boulder Creek Winery, is even going out of business in 2015 due, in part (a small part), to a lack of available grapes. This is the forth time in five years that yields will be dramatically reduced because of extreme winter events. Or is this just the new normal?

Reports of hail damage or winter kill make me realize why I love wine so much. The fragile nature of wine is what makes it so great. Winemakers get one shot per year. Sometimes it just doesn't work out. Many times it works out, but the results aren't all that spectacular. The sun, leaves, water, hands and mind all have to align to produce something truly great, that Warren Winiarski described to me as "giving you that far away look." Rare is the time when everything comes together and makes you stare off into the distance completely overwhelmed by a glass of wine. The complex, yet delicate essence of fermented grape juice is what makes it so spectacular.

Wine is much more than just a beverage. It isn't something that is distilled down as many times as possible to remove impurities. It isn't assembled from an ingredient list sourced from around the world. It's existence and its quality are so dependent on nature and each year brings something different. It is this pursuit of trying to capture sunshine in a bottle, year after year, that makes me love wine. Every bottle is a treasure hunt.

And I know that the producers from Burgundy to Colorado will try to do the best they can with limited resources this growing season. And guess what? They'll be back at it next year with renewed energy and optimism. And that makes me smile.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I can appreciate your point of view. You don't get to choose when it comes to Mother Nature: the whole package, or nothing. Enjoying Nature for all its glory - beauty, tranquility and wonder vs. violence, danger and tragedy... is to respect, understand and value its power. Fruit, just like any other naturally produced commodity will react to the cycles in our environment. Can we learn to appreciate that diversity? To your point, it is precisely the diversity in wine, that makes it so interesting. I find it difficult to be tolerant of the attitude that we must master everything within our influence. Finding ways to work with our variable environment, rather than bend it to our will, has to be the long-term answer.