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November 12, 2007

Five myths about winemakers debunked

Posted in: Wine Strategy

Winemakers are an enigma to us mere mortals who drink their product and wonder at the romance and genius that has gone into each drop.

Knowing a winemaker is the grown up version of going to school with the child of someone who worked for Whittaker’s, Tip Top or Griffins - and with it comes the same kinds of illusions of what their life must be like.

Despite all the glamour though, and as the following points illustrate, some myths about winemakers simply aren’t true.

1. Winemakers are wine snobs

While there are wines snobs in the general drinking public the rest of us are likely to give most things a go and the same can be said for winemakers.

Most winemakers would admit that while a seminal wine moment may have been on something a bit more highbrow, they probably cut their teeth on cask wine and Marque Vue just like the rest of us.

In fact a common complaint of winemakers is while they love wine, they rarely receive it as a gift, so scared are people of not quite measuring up with their gift of choice.

Of course winemaker palates are highly tuned, but remember - it’s their job to know a bit about flavour, style and structure so don’t think for a minute most of them are above swigging straight from a bottle of pinot while waiting at the bus stop.

2. Winemakers are rich

While wine is a glamour industry, it certainly doesn?t have glamour pay rates.

The average assistant winemaker’s salary is very modest (certainly not Bollinger every night material) and while some winemakers, when they get to the top of the food chain, will do pretty well for themselves most of the ones you meet will not be millionaires.

3. Living on a vineyard must be so peaceful

Where to begin on dispelling this myth…?

During spring wind machines cranking up at ungodly times in the night sound like your bedroom is located on the wing of a 747 aircraft.

If the vineyard doesn’t have wind machines you will instead be likely to have a helicopter hovering over your house like an alien spaceship set to suck you from your bed.

Come late summer and early autumn there’s bird scaring to contend with, which generally involves a combination of men racing around the vineyard on 4×4s shooting guns and automatic gas guns producing frighteningly loud explosive noises every minute.

Add to that all the usual agricultural noises of dogs, tractors and other heavy machinery spraying the vines every few weeks, and you’ll soon discover you may need to head back to the city for a rest.

4. Winemaking simply involves picking grapes, waiting, then tasting the fruits of your labour

As one winemaker has said the most enduring piece of advice she picked up upon entering the industry was: “Winemaking is 99 per cent cleaning”.

That’s about the sum of it when you think about all the pipes, pumps, plungers, tanks, vats, barrels, lab equipment and so on to clean.

Perhaps a pair of rubber gloves would be an appropriate gift for the winemaker in your life this Christmas?

5. It’s all cellar tours, wine show dinners, acceptance speeches and fancy marketing

While those glossy marketing photos in magazines would have us believe winemakers spend all day holding glasses of wine up to the light with stupid expressions on their faces, the reality of life as a winemaker is a little more grounded.

In fact, winemakers could be compared to elite athletes to a certain degree (though not quite as toned) in that the opportunities they get to perform in public and receive crowd adulation probably more accurately measures 5 per cent of the time, while the other 95 per cent is just hard graft and monotony (see point 4 above).

By Lesley Reidy. Lesley is an owner of online wine retailer www.winefairy.co.nz

Source: www.stuff.co.nz

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