What wine would I make?
Go on then, damn you, I can see them thinking, what would you do?
I'm pretty sure that thought occurs to winemakers every time their wine is critiqued by niggardly wine writers like me dispensing righteous judgement from behind our laptops. After all, most of us are entirely self-appointed arbiters, wielding our opinions like lightsabers of truth. I guarantee I'd think likewise if a vigneron ever schooled me on the shortcomings of my writing.
Today, however, I'll attempt to answer the original question: what would I do, if I had to make wine? This won't be a considered response (excuses already, damn you!) but a stream-of-consciousness ramble. This is what I'd do, and therefore what I stand by, I suppose. Live by the lightsaber, die by the lightsaber.
I'll set a few parameters: style and price can be chosen entirely to suit my own tastes, but it must be commercially viable - ie, I need to sell it, and explain how that's going to happen.
Gulp. Here goes.
I would only make a wine I loved to drink. Yeesh, hideous clichés already. Let me qualify that a little. I wouldn't try and make anything that already attracts a lot of attention - I love drinking Burgundy, but would never want to try making it - too much pressure. So that probably makes it a cool climate Syrah and/or a Riesling.
The Clare Valley grows both well, but it's hardly a cool region. I suppose I could go to the Northern Rhône and make Riesling as a Vin de France alongside a Crozes-Hermitage - that's certainly a good angle to try and generate some interest among wine nerds. Or incredulous pity, at any rate.
Where else? Tasmania and the Great Southern are too remote, Elqui and Leyda are great but they don't excite me personally, Pfalz is an interesting option, but probably too much of a wildcard.
Hmm. Not so easy, this winemaking lark.
Let's go for the Syrah and Riesling in Crozes-Hermitage option. Relatively large appellation, not too expensive, good infrastructure, not too many climatic challenges. I'd go organic because I think I don't like the idea of spraying chemicals, and because I'm completely naive.
Now we need a name. If I'm going to sell it internationally, it needs to be pronounceable and meaningful in multiple languages. None of this Domaine de la Haut-Moulin, Cuvée Papillon Réserve de la Famille claptrap. My company name is Vindication, so that'll do for starters, and I'll identify each cuvée primarily by the grape variety.
There will be a 100% Riesling and 100% Syrah - plus perhaps one barrel of an experimental Syrah Riesling blend called I'll get me Côte.
As for winemaking, the Syrah will be a medium bodied style with a good proportion of whole bunch fermentation to give the stemmy fragrance that I like. The Riesling will be dry and steely. with a bit of skin contact to give pith. Shamefully vague! Volume? Let's start with 50,000 bottles, half-red and half white. I have absolutely no idea in the slightest if that's realistic.
I'm already sweating at the thought of all this, but now comes the really hard bit: price and distribution. A fair market price for good Crozes-Hermitage is around £15, I reckon. That means it would need to go via independent merchants and knowledgable wine bars. I'm thinking very London-centrically here, of course. I should probably export to several other markets to spread the risk - I've got half-decent contacts in Australia, New York, California, and I could try some of the Nordic countries too.
To do that well requires a lot of travel, to say nothing of understanding export regulations, satisfying QC & QA requirements, avoiding unfavourable exchange rates, accounting for shipping logistics, as well as factoring in distributor commission, retailer margin, storage costs, promotional support ...
So that's the wine I'd make. Anybody fancy 25,000 bottles of remaindered, declassified Rhône Riesling? Ha ha ha, what a disaster!
I think I'll stick to telling other people what they're doing wrong.