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Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Pouring Wine Down the Drain

The other day I poured about 400 liters of wine down the drain. 

Down the drain it goes
Why? Because it had started to turn into vinegar! 

This had never happened to me before, but it just goes to show that there's a first time for everything.

It's interesting that it had to happen right now at this time, as I've been involved in several on-line discussions about natural wines in general, and about wine faults in particular. Especially over at Robert Joseph's blog (here). It makes me think that the universe is out to get me! Or maybe looking out for me!

But first, here's my thoughts on the possible immediate causes of this little personal tragedy:

1.         The ambient conditions. I'm sharing a bodega at the moment and the space available to me is right next to the main door. So I'm thinking that there would be not only be no temperature control, but that the temperatures could actually swing quite a lot from day-to-day and from day-to-night, and also over the course of the year.

2.         Lack of day-to-day attention to the wines. Over the last few months I've not been able to attend to my wines as much as I'd have liked because I've been so busy looking for (and finding, and refurbishing) a new bodega (see these previous posts: here and here ).

3.         The non-use of sulphur. That wine may well have survived if I had used a bit of sulphur in there. Like I’ve said before, I have nothing against the sensible moderate use of sulphur; just its abuse.

But whatever the immediate causes, the more interesting question was: to pour it away or not? Because I've tasted wines that were on sale that had a much higher VA (volatile acidity) and were much closer to being real vinegar that the stuff I just poured down the drain. On the one hand I think I could have quite easily bottled it up and sold it off. But on the other, I think that my constant involvement in debates and discussions on different wine blogs over the last year or so, has had an influence on my beliefs and attitudes towards natural wines and their so-called 'faults'.

I think that the wine I just threw away would have been considered faulty by the conventional wine world, but would have been perfectly acceptable to many in the natural wine world. Like I said, I've tasted plenty that were closer to vinegar than the lot in question.

There’s also the question of my own personal taste. Even though I have a wide range of tolerance for wines that others would consider faulty, I personally don’t like wine with a high VA!!! I find it OK to drink every now and then, but not habitually; and certainly don’t want to produce wines like that. One of my main goals in my winemaking enterprise is to produce “terroir-expressing” wines, as I say in the header of this blog and on my labels and anywhere else I can! And wine with a high, noticeable, tasteable Volatile Acidity level simply does not express terroir, IMHO. Wine that tastes of vinegar, tastes of vinegar no matter what part of the world it comes from.

Ultimately, I’d like to think that I've put my money where my mouth is. On the one hand I was hesitating, thinking of the lost income and the amount of work put into making it to date. But on the other hand, the very thought of having that wine out there on the market just made me cringe with embarrassment! I guess it’s been a great lesson learnt, and not just from a technical winemaking point of view, but from the point of view of the type of winemaker I want to be and the types of wines that I want to produce.

all down the drain


  1. Hmmm... and selling as vinegar?



  2. I REALLY appreciate your sending me this Fabio. And I have huge respect for your decision to dispose of what might as you say have been saleable wine. As we've discussed on previous occasions, I do think that SO2 a tried and tested protection against bacteria and oxidation. It IS possible to produce stable wine without it, but a) it requires very very careful attention. (One producer of a "natural" wine wrily said it had taken more "manipulation" - in terms of watching and filtering etc - than any other he'd made. B) even when huge care is taken, the wine will still have a relatively short life.
    What I particularly appreciate about your piece is your acknowledgement - too rare among "natural wine fans" that VA - vinegariness - is a fault rather than an interesting characteristic.
    Good luck with the next batch!


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