We hear more and more wines produced in “subtraction”, or rather try to get as much out of it as possible to impact as little as possible on what will end up in our glasses. I am firmly convinced that the path of removing the superfluous can be an objective to pursue and that it can today give rise to the production of wines of great interest and charisma. However, it is essential not to distort the concept of subtraction which, as the sculpture teaches us, must be based on knowledge of the facts: “Not because of the placement but by dint of removing” (Michelangelo Buonarroti).
For make wine by subtraction, therefore, you need to know what to remove; to know what to remove, you have to know the technical principles that allow the vine to produce healthy and quality grapes and this grape to become a wine capable of becoming a faithful translator of its own varietal identity and even more of its territorial identity. . Let’s be clear, by technique I mean all the choices (even when we don’t) and actions implemented by any winegrower and producer from the vine to the bottle, according to their production standards (to be clear, pruning is to be considered as one of the most important technical actions such as racking or pumping over or any other mechanical-physical operation in the cellar, therefore not necessarily chemical). Exchanging negligence for respect and approximation for synonymous with craftsmanship and sustainability is something extremely dangerous for those who make wine and for those who consume it. There are great winegrowers, great producers and conscientious winegrowers able to work while minimizing their impact on the product but let us remember that in making “natural” wine there is very little from the imposition that the ‘we first gave to the vine by asking it to get in line and produce as much and as we want by anthropizing its use and, on the other hand, the grapes that derive from it, transforming it into wine, into l preventing it from becoming vinegar.
Competence and technicality do not mean “abuse of chemistry or refinement”, on the contrary, they can and must increasingly contribute to the reduction of interventionism and to the production of quality wines that are strong in their identity and clear in their organoleptic expression, avoiding the abuse of “cosmetic” and redundant oenological practices that seek to exchange analytical quality and “cleanliness” with quality.
I believe that certain principles cannot be accused of negativity under pretext, because I believe that repudiating the notion of technique by confusing subtraction with negligence and ignorance is done to the detriment of many virtuous winegrowers whose wines also come under wine if defined as “natural “or – even better – craftsmen who prove not only able to reach significant heights but also able to do so consistently and consistently over time.
Denying technical knowledge cannot be the way to produce great wines that remain great over time and are not the result of “chance”. Perhaps it really is time to go beyond the categories aiming for extreme sustainability and the highest level of wholesomeness (it being understood that wine will never be a “healthy” product as a whole) with sensitivity, competence and intellectual honesty. Wine can and must be a great craft product like the great craftsmanship of which man is capable.
The definition of the term “technical” encompasses many areas but, unsurprisingly, the first is precisely art and therefore craftsmanship: “Set of principles which govern the practical and instrumental exercise of an art, a science, a professional activity”.
Making wine is a process that cannot ignore the practical work of man and the adoption of techniques that allow those who make wine to transform the fruit of a “tamed” vine into that liquid that we love so much and which gives so much, to us who live from this passion, to discuss and appreciate. Knowledge is respect because it allows not to intervene but to have control of the production phases and it is precisely through human supervision, from the vine to the bottle, that one can obtain a varietal, territorial identity. and clear vintage, without leading to an approval which is as much about chemical abuse and protocol work as about negligence and therefore faults which dominate the most sincere expressiveness of the wine.
sentences like “I do like my grandfather”, “I do nothing, my wine is made” or, “It comes as it comes, stability does not exist in nature” they are romantic and hard-hitting slogans but, at the same time, misleading concepts that undermine the work of many who, for years, have struggled to demonstrate that it is possible to make wine in the most sustainable way possible and with minimum impact on humans through awareness of their do’s and don’ts.
It’s also true that there are equally dangerous phrases that tend to diminish subtraction work, such as “well, I can do it too!” », « nothing is needed to make a maceration » etc. When certain statements are sent back to me, I always think of Maestro Lucio Fontana’s “Cuts”: works that, thus, at first sight, could lead the viewer to the superficial but spontaneous conviction that something similar, if not better, could be done. However, upstream of these cracks on these monochromes and behind these same cuts, there is a path made of experience, knowledge and… technical knowledge!
Viticulture first and wine can and must be two of the best examples of teamwork between man and nature, but it is man who can and must make decisions and not decide this is not not “making wine” is fooling ourselves and deluding ourselves that the grape alone wants to become wine and we all know that is not the case.
I will not stay here talking to you about biogenic amines (such as tryptamine, phenylethylamine, putrescine, cadaverine, histamine, tyramine, spermidine and stermine) or acetaldehyde (also potentially carcinogenic) because I would risk to mislead in the opposite extreme and far from me wanting to reduce a wine to its analytical particularities. It is important, however, to assess the potential criticalities in terms of wholesomeness not only by fossilizing on the sulphurous aspect to be taken into account but less and less problematic given the considerable leveling of total SO2 in most wines of quality in Italy.
I decided to share these thoughts because I believe that thoughtful and careful subtraction is the future that even the conventional will have to adapt to step by step and, the hope is that those who are already working today with excellent results in the art of removing can serve as an example for those who still see the “simplest and surest way” as the right one to follow.