I am reading an interesting book called Vineyard at the End of the World by Ian Mount. Although it's a bit too detailed in the minutia of history, I am learning a lot about how not to make wine.
What I am learning most of all are some of the mistakes and tricks that lead to a successful vintage. Like you need to have a dry spell at the end of the ripening period just before harvest to concentrate the flavours in the grapes. Dilution with water, which is what was happening in Argentina as the grapes were sold to vintners by weight so they watered them to increase yield, causes bad things to happen chemically. It is also important to reduce the yield by limiting the number of shoots and clusters so that all the effort goes into the remaining grapes. That's going to be a hard lesson to learn.
Anyway, I am enjoying this book. With every one I read, I learn another things that helps me understand oenology a bit more. I learned that the standard for making good wine is judged on chardonnay varietals. It's because the chardonnay grape is rather mild but takes on the terroir and the winemaker's skills exquisitely. Much like Patagonian toothfish was to the chef, chardonnay is the rite of passage for the vintner. So to prove they could make wine in Argentina, they started with chardonnay and then went back to the ancient Malbec vines to produce their own very special red wines. Chardonnay was also the downfall of the varietal when mass production in America caused a significant decline in quality. Remember ABC -- anything but chardonnay?
So I guess we're going to try to make chardonnay. I will plant some vines this year. In five years we shall see. As the best chardonnay comes from Chablis in France, and Chablis has clay soil, I am hopeful that we might be able to make some magic. Perhaps we'll someday write a story about the Vineyard on the Wild Atlantic Way. Whites also harvest sooner.
More on my thinking about "why white" in the next installment. Here is a blog post on some of the secrets to growing chardonnay grapes in a small vineyard.