Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Fair Share of Lunatics

Our industry has its fair share of lunatics. Mind you, having a few bottles loose in the top pallet isn't a pre-requisite, but it is helpful in coping with the sometimes inhuman demands of production and marketing in a modern winery.

Such a flash establishment will have its usual rally of stainless steel fermenters, the sanitised laboratory with its crisp glassware, and a tightly arranged tasting room, tastelessly clinging to the pseudo-gothic walls of the winery proper.

It will also present an air of ordered calm and sophistication to the casual visitor, fairly aimed at appealing to long dormant senses, every pore of the comalco castle manoeuvring you into the mood to buy. The zealot behind the bar will concentrate its hypnotic gaze somewhere behind your eye balls. "Buy this and I'll make you someone special" music will waft innocently amongst the pristine rows of Special Reserve Winemaker's Private Bin Limited Edition Oak Cask Vintage Cabernet Chardonnay.

You'll reach into your wallet. The currency moths, blind as pit ponies, will flutter dumbly into the over-sexed commercial gloom as another $100.00 bill bites the dust.

"Or would Sir/Madam/Special Other like to avail themselves of the discount applicable to the purchase of two bottles?"

This, of course is called business.

Meanwhile, in the other world raging out the back, disparate personalities which inhabit the darker corners of the cellar are at play. Known cautiously as "cellar rats", their nether world is where the real business is taking place. Miles of pre-metric reinforced plastic hose booby-trap each tank and guard the entrance to the holiest of holy, the cask room.

Here you'll find, placed firmly between last years triumphs and this years potential disasters, the only cog in this complicated wheel which is irreplaceable, the winemaker. It is the lot of the winemaker to stay so wedged throughout vintage, preserving the quality of the grapes as they begin their long and dangerous journey from fresh fruit to fantastic frascati.

If the winemaker has a bad day, the winery has a bad year.

Expert winemakers, like flamboyant chefs, are not normal employees. They have a special relationship with their creations which both reflects and maintains the currency of their quite individual existence.

And a good vintage doesn't just happen. While it is quite true that a winemaker worth his or her tartaric acid, can haul a poor year up to a standard acceptable to even the most pretentious metallic skillion out the front, in every human sense, it's a thankless task. The endless days merge unnoticed into frantic nights as vintage gathers pace. The truck loads arrive, the crusher breaks down, the refrigeration system is running on empty and every tank is full and still the fruit arrives. All that is needed now is rain. Romantic business this wine making caper and in the end does it all really matter? The job is done as best it can be with the materials at hand, and that's as it is in business these days. Still, name me one chef with references from MacDonalds.


  1. Ahhh the joys of small business. If only we could all be mining magnates and buy ourselves a TV station

  2. I know a winemaker with a few bottles loose in the top pallet, but that's part of the attraction!! Congrats on starting the blog, will be visiting regularly for a dose of El Doyle brilliance.

  3. Good on you Michelle. Are you sure it is only a few bottles? I see Central began taking their fizz base a couple of days ago. We may start with fizz mid next week. Take care, and we're all thinking of our friends in NZ at this time.

  4. Quite a pleasure reading your blog as well as looking at some of the pic on your fb profile...more than a year is gone since i have been having the pleasure of visiting you..but the taste of your wine and your kindness stay firm in my definitively don t need gothic(pseudo or real) walls..just keep your passion and your fair amount of creativity...people will continue to love it. I live in italy..and we have some good wines here too( i m jst back from bulgheri if that rings a bell)..but loved the experience in your wineyards. Best of luck. Lucio

  5. Good on you Lucio

    Sorry I didn't catch up with your kind comments until just now, but with Spring about to burst and a bottling prepared for, I've somewhat lost the plot. I'll be more awake from here on in. Give our regards to lucky fellow.