20th June, 2013 by Patrick Schmitt - This article is over multiple pages: 1 2 3 4
The 2013 Winemakers’ Winemaker award went to Paul Draper of California’s Ridge Vineyards, who talks to Patrick Schmitt about his non-interventionist approach.
Each year the Institute of Masters of Wine and the drinks business honour an exceptional figure in the world of wine with a unique award, the Winemakers’ Winemaker. The two previous recipients of the award, inaugurated in 2011, were both Peters: Sisseck, of Pingus and Gago, of Penfolds. This year it went to a Paul: Paul Draper, of California’s Ridge Vineyards.
The award’s name stems from the selection process, which requires MW winemakers to vote on a list of candidates drawn up by the drinks business and the Institute. In essence, it’s an opportunity for high-achieving cellar hands to reward a highly respected peer. However, as pointed out at the awards ceremony in Germany, this year’s recipient may not like the term winemaker, but in commending him, it was used twice.
For Draper, the title suggests wine is created by man, rather than man guiding a natural process. And for those who know him, he is highly opposed to interventionist measures in the cellar in making fine wine. Indeed, as discovered during a dinner with Draper after the awards event, he has opted for voluntary ingredient labelling to promote his non-interventionist approach, which has always seen him eschew commercial yeasts or modern winemaking tools such as micro-oxygenation.
As a result, all wines from the 2011 vintage now carry information identifying every addition to the wines, including an explanation of why and when water might be used. His simple explanations (see following page) are a sign of Draper’s clarity of thinking, as well as his practical approach to winemaking. He doesn’t choose a particular path for marketing reasons, but to enhance quality without compromising the inherent characteristics of the grapes. “Great wines are made with very straightforward techniques,” he says.