Over my 35 years in the wine industry, I have become increasingly alarmed at the gap between what winemakers do and what they are permitted to discuss in public. One root of this unhappy situation is the widening schizm between technical people and the general public, and a justly growing distrust of modernization. I admit it -- I can barely cope myself with my computer, and I have no idea how to program my VCR. If only winemaking could remain sacred and untainted! Alas, the advent of the 20th Century with its electricity, stainless steel, refrigeration, inert gas, its microbiology, enzymology, and all those other ologies completely erased traditional winemaking from anywhere on the globe some fifty years ago.
But fear not. What is important is not to eliminate modern conveniences, but to regain the ancient knowing in order to produce wines which lift the human soul. Winemaking is just another form of cooking, and winemakers need to learn to be better chefs. Not by putting down their tools, but by concentrating less on theory and more on technique, and by replacing draconian control of nature for an understanding of how to coexist with its bounty. These are the principles I will explore in this blog.
Clark Smith is the winemaker for WineSmith, PennyFarthing and CheapSkate wines, and co-owner (with brother Brian) of Vinovation, Inc., a wine production consulting and service firm serving 1,200 wineries in California and on five continents. He is a leading authority on the enhancement of wine structure and a vocal proponent of living soil. In his 35 years in the industry he has developed of a suite of winemaking techniques including the use of reverse osmosis to optimize wine grape maturity.
Clark has served as a member of the OIV's Groupe d'Experts sur Technologie du Vin since 1996 and from 1999 to 2001 as President of the UC Davis Trellis Alliance. He has taught winemaking fundamentals for over two decades as an adjunct lecturer for five universities. In his popular courses on winemaking fundamentals have been delivered since 1985 to thousands of students at U.C. Davis Extension, Napa Valley College, CSU Fresno, Florida International University and Southwest Missouri State University, he presents new tools and techniques within a view of wine as fundamentally mysterious, and encourages students to move beyond the scientific reductionist approach of current vogue. His research contributions to winemaking include stuck fermentations, micro-oxygenation, night harvesting, ultrafiltration, strategies to minimize sulfites, control of Brettanomyces, cork aroma taint, and vineyard effects on wine quality.
Clark and his wife, French psychologist Susan Mayer-Smith, travel regularly to winegrowing areas throughout North America, Australia, Europe, South Africa and South America. He judges wines at several competitions, edits the controversial website www.winecrimes.com, and writes and lectures widely on an innovative view of winemaking he refers to as Practicing GrapeCraft.