The following is an interview with Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir:
Question: You obviously talked to many different winemakers for your book, were there particular approaches to the craft that united them all?
Natalie Berkowitz: I’ve always marveled at the diversity of human creativity. Generations of artists used the same colors but their paintings represent their personal visions. The concept compelled me to write The Winemaker’s Hand. Unlike consistent products like Coca Cola, Tropicana Orange Juice and Heinz Ketchup, wine lovers are treated to a plethora of wines from different regions crafted from an amazing number of varietals.
The Winemaker’s Hand is a compilation of conversations with more than 40 vintners from many viticultural regions around the world. They reveal how all winemakers wrest with their soils and the forces of nature, (or terroir) to create a wine that represents their individual talents, passions, expertise, vision, philosophy, and historical traditions. All these factors are integral to what goes into a bottle of wine. After all, the grapes don’t jump into the bottles themselves, it’s what makes winemaking both and art and a science.
Q: Are there new technologies that are currently changing the way in which wine is made?
NB: Because of new technologies, wine has improved around the world since the last part of the 20th century: steel fermentation tanks, better barrels, more comprehensive information from chemical analysis, and a better understanding of which varietals fare better in different terrors. Winemakers are generous souls, willing to share ideas about new technologies with their peers.
Q: You talk about the importance of developing one’s own personal taste rather than relying on critics’ judgments. How did you form your own personal taste? Where is a good place to start for readers who don’t know much about wine?
NB: Newbies to the world of wine should think of each bottle as a blind date. If they like it, they should begin an adventure to explore the region, the varietal, the winery and the winemaker. Or move on to explore the ever-expanding possibilities of wine in the market place. Wine is constantly evolving and our taste buds. My advice is to ignore the old constricting rules about red with meat and white with fish. Many wines will cross over quite nicely.
Ignore wine ratings in magazines created by individuals who set themselves up as authorities. After all, their tastes and criteria might not agree with yours. Let your tongue and taste buds be your real guide.