Flying Winemakers


The development of the airliner has had a big effect on the wine business. It has made it easier for individuals to directly supervise viticulture and winemaking in different countries across the globe, rather than exchanging ideas by mail as they have for centuries. This means closer control of the wine, and has seen new technologies such as Drip irrigation, trellis systems, and other developments spread rapidly. This all leads to a homogenous product, influenced more by the winemaker’s background than the local terroir and history.

On the other hand, that ‘history’ often included overoaking and dirty facilities that partly oxidized the wines, which are rapidly fixed by flying winemakers. Many of the early flying winemakers were Australians who had been educated in modern techniques, and used the fact that their autumn was six months ahead of the Northern Hemisphere to ‘moonlight’ when things were quiet at home. They have had some dramatic success in improving the quality of Old World wines, particularly in the South of France and in the former Communist countries.

Some of the most influential flying winemakers now are: Frenchman Michel Rolland from Pomerol who advises over 100 wineries in 13 countries but has probably had most influence on the chateaux around his home, and Italian Alberto Antonini who has been involved with the Antinori and Frescobaldi families in Italy and similarly advises close to 100 wineries in 14 countries. Rolland is criticized by Mondovino as he favors a style similar to that liked by Parker. On the other hand, as New World winemaking has matured winemakers have taken more notice of terroir; matching grapes and winemaking styles to particular locations. Thus New World styles are starting to develop, such as Clare Valley Riesling, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, and ‘indigenous’ varieties such as Pinotage are being proudly marketed as single-varietal wines rather than blended.

In Europe, there is renewed interest in heritage wines, particularly by the new democracies in Eastern Europe where wine can be a statement of national identity. A particularly good example is seen in Eger in Hungary, where the local Bull’s Blood wine has seen a steady infusion of foreign grapes such as Blaufränkisch in the 18th century, the Bordeaux varieties after phylloxera struck, and Zweigelt under communism. This is now being reversed with substantial new planting of the traditional Kadarka variety – which itself was brought from Serbia by the Turkish invasion of the 16th century. Another example is Domaine Gauby, who in 2000 turned their back on a big, Parker-friendly style for their flagship Muntada wine, in favor of a more traditionally French style.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.