Wine, at the root, is a food, and vintners are the ones who process it.
Each product is naturally subject to variance depending on the variety of grapes, the vineyard site and the weather. Those conditions yield the raw material with which wine is made, but the making — the manipulating of the fruit and the juice into a shelf-stable beverage — is what allows us to consume it.
If left untouched, a bucket of grapes will spontaneously ferment, drawing on ambient yeast and natural nutrients in an attempt to preserve itself. But these fermentations can easily go awry, producing flaws or revealing deficiencies, often in the form of the reductive stench of malnourishment or an acetone-like volatility.
Fortunately, winemaking technologies, techniques and chemistry have developed to moderate all of these variables, and wine is delicious and satisfying! Even in a bad year, a vintner can adjust or amend the raw material enough to make wine taste good.
But at what point do consumers, especially those who follow their food back to the farmers, focus on precisely where and how their wine is made?
For Aaron Schwartz, owner of Julian Sinclair Distributing, a Eugene-based distributor of natural wine, cider and beer, the most important aspect of wine is transparency.
“Wine should conjure an image of where it is from,” Schwartz says, “and the less it is manipulated, the more it can show.”