View From The Vineyard: March

WRITTEN BY Shane Golden

March 26, 2024

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View From The Vineyard: March

by | Mar 26, 2024 | Fashion & Lifestyle

Shane Golden

26 Mar, 2024

Do Not Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

Shane Golden, Manager of Whelehans Wines

From the outside looking in, winemaking would appear to be a cursed profession that gives no rest. In the more halcyon days of times past, the humble farmer tending his vines may have been considered a doctor in everything but name. Being safer to drink than water, wine was prescribed to the masses as an antidote to many ills to the point of being an agent for civilization “But, fill me with that old familiar juice, methinks I might recover by and by”, Omar Khayyam. The word “wine” appears more than 200 times in the Bible. Nevertheless, in our post-industrial times artisans of wine serve a different yet no less important function, being the proverbial canary in the coal mine for climate change.

Very few consumables carry such a broad church of environmental, social and sustainable considerations to weigh up before the cup crosses your lips. Setting aside the obvious health-associated risks of abuse, the idea of spending your hard-earned coin on fermented yet glorified grape juice is on paper a tough sell. The upper echelons of producers also hog the headlines with their incredible wines with even more incredible price-tags. This creates a barrier between those who see wine as an investment vehicle and those of us who simply wish to revel in all its varied glory. While Jesus may have referred to himself as the “true vine”, he surely would balk at the eye watering prices currently being asked for Grand Cru Burgundy.

Pity then the struggling farmer toiling in the field, endeavoring to persevere. Far more likely supporting family than fund, contending daily with the vagaries of climate change. Working in tandem with the earth, the majority hope to charge a few euros per bottle upon leaving the cellar should the harvest prove to be a success that is and in turn leaving some sort of legacy. All the best wines out there come from vines that are stressed; that shouldn’t include the winemaker.

Stories of strange weather patterns abound and do not exist in the abstract. One Piedmontese producer I met recently now has to regularly contend with hail in the middle of July. Germany, which even has a whole category of wine dedicated to late harvesting, sees picking begin a full month earlier in many places compared to the 60s. In my lifetime it is almost certain that England will be making the very best Champagne-style wines. And in words that I can barely believe I’m typing, currently I am sourcing vines to grow off the coast of South-West Kerry.And while I originally thought of myself as some sort of pioneer, I was shocked but not surprised to find that the next door neighbour has already got a head start on me. We live in interesting times.

While the price of wine and the human cost dominate the headlines, just as relevant should be its value as a cultural practice. No other ritual engages all the senses to such a degree that it becomes a tool for social cohesion. Admittedly, I am painting with broad strokes here. But those of you who have holidayed or indeed are lucky enough to live in wine producing regions will appreciate what I mean.

The idealist in me does not see wine as a vehicle to get you drunk. While it was a libation in rituals for millennia it now is symbolic of collective action. I have yet to meet anyone in the industry in denial about climate change or skeptical of Science.

Sustainability in the industry is now being driven by the pillars of ESG. Scientifically-driven and environmentally-friendly techniques are on the rise both in the field and winery. While organic certification is notoriously hard to attain, sustain as well as being expensive it should come as good news the rapid increase in the number of certified estates over the last 10-15 years. Some regions such as Mendoza in Argentina, The Languedoc, Alsace have a natural head start due to their climates.

But it’s Bordeaux that’s a more interesting barometer of where things are at. As it stands, this region accounts for approximately 80% of the World’s Fine Wine market. It also happens to be a cool-climate region so mildew and pests are a big problem here. Spraying for which was, historically, de rigueur. This continuous spraying contributed to the infamous  “Judgement of Paris” competition when wines from California defeated their Bordeaux counterparts. It was dramatized in the movie “Bottle Shock”, one of Alan Rickman’s lesser known roles and a story in itself for another day. In 2014, 35% of the estates here had a certified environmental approach. This jumped to 65% in 2019. By 2022 1,200 producers were certified organic. It still has some way to go but considering the environmental pressures here, these are notable figures for a wine-producing region that has no peers. When Bordeaux sneezes, the rest of the wine world coughs.

I am not here to get you to drink more or even convert you if a drop has never crossed our lips. My wish is to help you drink more considerately if that is indeed what you want to do. You also do not need to spend north of €20 to find something to dazzle your palate. The next time you are in your local wine shop turn the bottle on the shelf around and have a look at the front label (confusing I know, but the label normally on display is technically the back label). More and more you are likely to see symbols for organic, sustainably-farmed, bio-dynamic, vegan and others. All representatives of collective-action and the best aspects of humanity writ large.

All is not lost


Wine of the Month

Mont Rubi Black, 2021

Modern, organic, vegan-friendly and flavourful, this is a wine with a lot to appreciate.

In appearance it has a distinctively deep and glossy purple hue while the nose is aromatic and floral with violets. There is a real purity of fruit here with fresh flavors of blackberries, dark raspberries and plums with a tinge of licorice spice on the finish.

The vineyard is located at 2000 feet in the Penedes within reach of the Mediterranean Sea. Altitude is a natural antidote to the heat so during the much cooler summer nights the alcohol levels are kept in check and balanced by the acidity.

In technique, style and execution this is considered very much a new-wave style Garnacha and reflective of the fact that Spain is possibly the most dynamic wine-producing country at the moment.

Impress your friends at your next dinner party and tell them this is a wonderful example of Carbonic Maceration

Alcohol 13.5%

Grape: Grenache/Garnacha

Region: Penedes, NE Spain

Very Lightly Oaked

Food pairing:-  Always a good idea to pair your wine with the local cuisine so go with cured meats or tapas. The combination of low tannins with hints of spice mean that it would also work really well with Asian-inspired vegetable dishes.


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