Can you picture a wine world where winery visits were rare? Where it was a real treat to be connected to the winemaker personally?
It wasn’t that long ago that this was the the reality.
A few months ago, Simon J Woolf recounted his trip to the Jura to visit wineries [Read here:The Fall of the Jura?] and a twitter frenzy ensued. The Jura is, in Mr. Woolf’s words “a paradise for lovers of natural wine, with a high number of small estates working organically or biodynamically, and minimal intervention ‘sans souffre’ wines available in almost every local wine bar or restaurant.”
Mr. Woolf went to one of the smallest regions of France to visit wineries for the first time on the heels of a string of tough vintages. Not surprisingly, he had a tough time securing winery visits.
The article does paint a clear picture of the current state of visiting artisan wineries in Europe. It describes the scarcity challenge of not enough wine and even less time perfectly.
The reality is that the most coveted winery visits are often wineries with a small scale of production and higher demand for their wines than supply.
The Winery Visit Special…
What is troubling is that the winery visit has been normalized to such a degree that the specialness of the visit has been replaced by the expectation of the visit. As an industry, we are accustomed to tasting in the cellar. Even further, when did popping bottles and sharing wine become a completely accepted and taken-for-granted practice? It is a special thing to share wine.
Tasting juice out of one barrel that is the total production for the world is a generous gift. It’s sharing the work of vintage imbued with the experience that reaches beyond that swirl and sip. The attitude we bring as an industry to the visits that allow these experiences has to change.
It’s pretty simple actually: there just isn’t enough of it all and we as an industry fetishize the small.
The fundamental question I keep returning to is this: Should the winery visit be an expectation or a surprising delight? And what do wineries do when they don’t have enough time or wine to accept visits from press, friends, importers, distributors, etc.? The winery visit and is going to have to change.