There is a more-than-worthy catch cry in the wine industry that you can’t make great wine without great fruit. In an increasingly competitive wine world, where sense of place, alongside quality, is a key differentiator, this truth is more relevant than ever.
Producers talk about the soil, the clones planted, trellising and the impact of the season, as well as regionally specific varietal characters. However, it is often the winemaker speaking these words. I would also like to hear from the viticulturists and see them get more public recognition and credit for their indispensable input.
Winemakers have a rather unfair reputation for seeking the spotlight. However, from my experience, winemakers are incredibly hard working people who get thrust into the spotlight by the marketing and sales teams, resulting in them being absent from the winery more than they would like. Today, the role of the winemaker is very much entwined, whether they like it or not, with selling and promoting wine (and for tiny producers, this reality is central to sales in general). Yes, everyone wants to talk to the winemaker, but why not share this job around? I would also like to speak with the person who grows the grapes.
This single approach, I suspect, is driven by ease. It makes the story simpler; easier for the customer to understand. But with increasing knowledge of wine consumers, I think people are craving meaty information about their favoured wines, including minute details on the vineyards and their custodians.
Some producers, such as Wynns, do it well. They widely promote viticulturist Allen Jenkins alongside winemakers Sue Hodder and Sarah Pidgeon. Yangarra, of McLaren Vale, visibly highlights viticulturist Michael Lane on their tasting notes as well as their website.
But to the wider community, I would like to hear more from those very talented people who tread the soil daily. I would like to see their names on back labels and tasting notes, alongside the winemaker. I would like to see the viticulturists at the wine shows, collecting the trophies with the team. And I pledge to play my part in the process, setting myself a goal to learn more about the many admirable people involved in the care and nurture of the land and vines, from which great wine is produced.