To Hell With Tradition!

27 Jan

Wine drinkers don’t really care about tradition. To hell with the traditions we’ve followed. Uncorking. Sabering champagne. “Clinking” your glasses in a toast. Red with meat and white with fish. Bah! Humbug!  To hell with tradition! And that irritatingly catchy tune from Fiddler on the Roof  gets in your head and won’t leave for months, like a heroin junkie squatting in your garden shed.

Freak Out



Except for one, simple, singular thing.

The entire process of making wine is based in tradition


(Taking a deep breath)

Nearly five thousand years ago the Phoenicians kept records of their travel for trade, their products including wines, grapes, and vines themselves. The Greeks improved demand in their economic trade by developing a superior finished product (i.e., better wine), while the Roman Empire’s mass expansion increased worldwide plantings, development, and local interest. “Hey, Jacobus, this stuff’s pretty good!”

La Tour Haut-Brion

The creation of good wine is a tradition of passion. It takes a plan, a huge amount of passion, immense dedication, and a ton of hard work to even TRY to make wine, let alone GOOD wine.


A winemaker preps soil and trellises, then plants vines in that specific soil, growing a specific grape. Protecting the fruit from bugs, birds and other predators, he or she grows the grapes to maturity. Then the winemaker picks the ripe fruit, clipping clusters from the vines, sorting, inspecting and de-stemming, choosing the best fruit. Then comes pressing and straining the juice, then fermenting, measuring acidity, sugars (in Brix), while mixing, punching down and tweaking the mixtures alcohol and sulfite levels among other key features, and racking the wines again and again to leave the sediment behind. Finally bottling, then allowing the mixture to sit, then recover from the shock of the bottling process, before finally opening a bottle of this elixer to drink and enjoy, not just to taste and judge.


This process is no easy thing. Imagine going through this entire process to taste your product and find it wanting. Worse, imagine suffering the process to find your product useless and undrinkable. Imagine that the final product -many barrels of it- simply stinks! It takes a huge amount of time to grow, cultivate, harvest, press, tweak, and bottle. The commitment to make wine is no small task.

It is a tradition and an art thousands of years old. It is a tradition that takes copious attention, time, dedication, serious knowledge, along with the willingness to fail miserably and the experience gained by trial and error, before someone with no knowledge can judge it (or simply imbibe it).


This tradition is noble and serving, for it allows us to to stand back, simply choose a bottle amongst hundreds and thousands, then pop the cork, and taste it with no involvement in the risk beyond a few dollars and a moment of our time. Or we can take the time to taste the moment, appreciate all the steps and parts in the development and growth of this living, evolving liquid, and begin the final step in wine’s evolutionary process.


To the winemakers, the farmers, the hands in the fields, the harvesters, all who stress and strain and suffer to make a luscious wine- I bow my head, bend my knee and tip my hat in honest thanks and gratitude to your passion, which serves my passion!

So after all this, how do I come full circle, having the stones to stand up and say “to hell with tradition”?


Just get that song out of my head. “Let it go, let it gooooooo….” yes, that might do the trick, and let’s open another bottle of wine. CHEERS! (clink!)

à votre santé!



6 Responses to “To Hell With Tradition!”

  1. GFwinecountryliving January 27, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    You get “it.” We had no idea what we were getting into planting a backyard vineyard and attempting to make wine. The year round work…unbelievable! The first two years of doing all of that only to have to trash the horrible wine was heart wrenching. Thank goodness for professional mentors, now. Thank you for your acknowledgement of all that goes into a single bottle of wine.


    • jimvanbergen January 27, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

      What you have to do to make the smallest amount of wine is simply staggering! My poor description is only the tip of the iceberg, and doesn’t include the overnights you spend in the vineyard for weather or during harvest, I’ve heard some real horror stories! We (end users) have so much appreciation- most drinkers have at least a casual appreciation, even if unspoken. Those of us who have seen it up close, are wowed at least, often intimidated at what goes into the process. I often feel indebted to the winemaker’s brand, and it is an honor to purchase those products. I’m glad wine lovers have the ability to support vineyards directly- so few of them can turn a real profit-it has to be a passion and a labor of love above all. Cheers to you, and my thanks! -JvB

      Liked by 1 person

      • GFwinecountryliving January 27, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

        Again, thanks for the validation.
        At some point we had invested too much–effort, time, and money– to go back. On the plus side, the connection to the land and its cycles, not to mention seeing fruits of the land turn into that magic elixir we call wine is astonishingly satisfying on many levels. Even though I sometimes wonder why we do this, there is so much more to learn before calling it a day. It’s the kind of thing where the more you learn, the more you realize you don’t know. I guess my husband and I love the challenge and the artistry involved in attempting to craft a delicious wine. Onward and upward, as they say!


  2. the drunken cyclist January 27, 2015 at 7:33 am #

    Reblogged this on mwwcblog.



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