Wine consultants are ‘plastic surgeons’By Lucy Shaw
High profile wine consultants are like “plastic surgeons” trying to make ugly wines beautiful, according to one French producer.
Speaking to the drinks business during a visit to the Loire Valley last week, Thierry Germain, owner of Domaines des Roches Neuves in Saumur, said: “France has lost the identity of its vineyards and terroirs because of the big name consultants. Modern winemaking is killing the ancestral tradition.
“Their approach is moving away from rural traditions and towards technology. They don’t pay attention to the vineyards or the people working in them and end up stealing the limelight from the viticulturists, who are the real protagonists.
“Wine consultants are like plastic surgeons trying to make ugly wines beautiful. There’s a trend at the moment for trying to create beautiful wines over authentic wines. The result is that they end up tasting fake and artificial.”
Germain, whose 28 hectare Saumur estate has been biodynamic since 2000, believes Bordeaux in particular, is guilty of making overcooked wines to please certain critics.
“The Bordelais are guilty of burning their wines with too high alcohol levels. The nature of Cabernet Franc on the Right Bank and Cabernet Sauvignon on the Left has changed in Bordeaux,” he told db.
“Winemakers are exposing their berries to too much sun and as a result, the wines being made are over-ripe and like body builders in their nature.
“I was born in Bordeaux and tried working there – I worked at Figeac for a while but I hated it,” he added.
Germain believes the answer to the current problem in the wine world lies in going back to making simpler wines that express where they come from.
“Certain pockets of the industry are holding consumers back from enjoying the lighter, fresher wines they are seeking. Consumers are ready for more balanced wines and as a region, the Loire holds the key to fulfilling this new consumer need as they offer balance, food friendliness and freshness,” he said.
Germain is currently experimenting with an extended skin contact “orange” wine called Terre made without sulphites or filtering and matured for nine months in an amphora half buried in his cellar.
“I decided to mature it for that long as that is the length of time it takes to make a baby. In this case the wine is the child and the amphora is the womb. I called it Terre in honour of Mother Nature,” Germain told db.
Another project is “Solera”, a wine made with Chenin Blanc blended from 1998,1999 and 2000 topped up with 2003.
Only a very limited number of bottles will go on sale at select restaurants such as Noma in Copenhagen.
“I’m fascinated with the energy that being biodynamic brings to the wines,” he said. Germain is due to start working with horses in place of tractors this harvest. His wines are imported into the UK by Les Caves de Pyrène.