Matt Kramer is a nice guy. At least that’s what I’m told from my winemaker friends to whom he’s granted an audience. I get the impression he and I see eye to eye on many current issues in wine production: the pre-eminence of distinctive terroir expression, the importance of living soil, the need for balance rather than impact, concern about centrist tendencies that turn wine into a shallow commodity. In sum, the fight for the soul of wine.
But Matt and I don’t speak to each other. It seems he’s concluded that the winemaking tools I created automatically destroy the soul of wine. In his latest article The Wine Behind the Machines he pontificates that any winemaker making use of these new techniques necessarily produces the “Miss America smile: glossy and insincere.”
Where does he get this? Certainly not from tasting. Thousands of sincere and thoughtful winemakers, many of which Matt praises highly, make use of alcohol adjustment and micro-oxygenation on a regular basis. The only thing that makes me different is that I disclose. So would everybody else if Matt and his fellow inquisitors would lay off the incendiary articles.
I agree with Mr. Kramer that there is a regrettable tendency towards sameness and away from distinctive terroir expression. To the extent that it gives winemakers more control over their end product, I’d have to agree that Vinovation’s suite of winemaking tools could be used to further a centrist agenda. But the tools aren’t the enemy – the agenda which comes out of commodity marketing is what we need to fight.
Our family brand WineSmith exists to press the envelope of possibilities for California wines. It’s known for its educational approach and its unexpected styles. In pursuit of an ancient aestheic which predates 20th Century technologies (starting with electricity), we paradoxically often make use of new innovations to make wines which present new directions for our winemaking clients -- more restrained alcohol, proper structure, mineral energy -- which we hope will encourage them into artistic and creative terroir expressions of their own.
I’ve done a good job with these wines. I believe that's why many agenda-packin' journalists taste them, love them, and then refuse to review them. But Mr. Kramer hasn't even done that. I find it odd, as should Wine Spectator’s readers, that for a decade Matt has refused to meet with me or taste the wines I make. Many believe WineSmith wines vindicate these techniques as positive allies of the aesthetic beliefs Matt and I share: distinctive terroir expression, balance and longevity. Because I am honest about employing tools like alcohol adjustment and tannin oxygenation to the refined presentation of distinctive terroir, it is, I guess, challenging for Mr. Kramer and his fellow reactionaries to examine serious winemaking's paradoxes and strange bedfellows with as much earnestness as Jamie Goode has done in "The surprising juxtaposition of .wine technology and natural wines."
Winemaking certainly finds itself today in odd philosophical terrain -- a weird, complex situation in an era when journalism loves the boiled down sound byte. Most people would say that it is today's news reporting that's glossy and insincere. Yet I have much esteem for Matt Kramer’s passion and journalistic honesty.
Come on, Matt. Taste some WineSmith Faux Chablis, Roman Syrah and Crucible and tell me these are glossy and insincere. Anyhow, it's high time we shared a glass, no?