Lowering yields: manipulation or not?

That definitely gave me a chuckle [cheers.gif]

I’ve heard stories that the local bishop called out green harvesting vignerons for “wasting God’s bounty” in Piemonte as well.

Like Rick said, we have discussed manipulation 5,000 times. I’m strongly in favor of minimal manipulation in winegrowing and winemaking. I believe that many of the common manipulations should require disclosure, but that is another discussion. In all these threads, someone has to point out that planting a vine or harvesting the crop is a manipulation, which strikes me as a way to distract the discussion from what we really mean. On the vast array of manipulations that begins with planting a vine and ends with spinning cones and reverse osmosis, almost all methods of avoiding excessive yields are far to the left of the line, IMO.

Was thinking about this as I grabbed a quick lunch.

We have had a couple of undeniably outstanding growing seasons which produced remarkable fruit in our 17 years. In those vintages, we have had to do less “winemaking” in the winery and have, IMO, made some of our finest wines. Were these wines some of our finest because we did less winemaking? I don’t think so…it was a fantastic growing season, that is why they were good.

We have also had a couple of very difficult years when it comes to the growing season, beset by various problems and plagues. In those years, I think we have made some pretty decent wines…but not at the level, generally speaking, of the top vintages and we have often had to do more “winemaking” in the winery. Were those years less successful because we did more winemaking? I don’t think so…I think they were less successful because the growing season was challenging. Would the wines have been better had we done less? I don’t think so, either, as we have followed that path before in our early years with poor results (a lot that was dumped down the drain, actually).

I think the idea that less winemaking makes better wines may be as simple as, when you have a year which allows you to make less wine then you have a good shot at making better wines.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

Precisely. This is as close a thing there is to the Godwin’s Law of wine discussion. It’s not even worth responding to anymore, as frustrating as it is because the offender always thinks he’s made a really clever argument. It’s not clever, it’s just sophistry.

This is a bit of a tangent from the green-harvesting topic (which of course doesn’t have anything to do with what’s happening in the winery), but it sounds like you might be willing to agree with some of your frequent sparring partners who find fault with wineries that “do more ‘winemaking’ in the winery” not only in difficult years but in outstanding years, not to correct for “problems and plagues” but because that’s the recipe for making wines in the style they want to make them in.

I see nothing fallacious about it. If you cannot understand the underlying fundamental truth that all vineyard planting and wine making is a manipulation of nature then how can you hope to parse anything that follows as so called un-manipulated or natural? The fallacy is to think there is some sort of wine making that does not use manipulation. That’s not trying to be clever. That’s simply seeing it for what it is.

Well now, it depends on what you make those buckets from.

I would make a musical anology: obviously building and learning to play musical instruments or singing is a manipulation of sound but then using sampling, cutting and splicing multiple takes, auto tune, digital harmonizing and such is an order of magnitude more manipulative than just recording it.

I’d frankly counter that any discussion that hedges towards “more manipulation is inherently bad” is equally frustrating and about as far from clever, or even remotely intelligent, as the above angle. It’s a gross generalization. I think it stems largely from conceptual idealization, as opposed to an understanding of the realities of winemaking. Your point in response to Adam along the line of “manipulate when necessary to salvage, get out of the way when you’ve got gold” is, to me a far more realistic approach.

At the same time, is winemaking in order to create a consistent and expected product a conceptually amoral venture, regardless of what nature provides? We frequently refer to a specific wine having a signature. If there is significant demand for that signature style, and said style required annual manipulation, would you, or Berry, condemn it on principal? It seems to me that is precisely where many a poster ends up leaning. But why? That’s where the hyperbolic “everything is manipulation” comes from. It’s all a matter of degree, and I question why any of it matters so long as you enjoy what you are drinking.

But nobody’s actually making that argument…


I prefer to do less winemaking in the winery (though there are some decisions, such as using stems or not as well as length of time on the skins, etc - which might be considered more or less, depending on where you sit - and would be things that I would say are just a matter of looking at the grapes and making a decision). I also think that questioning all of my decisions is a good path and not doing anything by rote is the way I prefer to go. – As far as finding fault with other wineries who do things differently, I can make that argument philosophically very easily…but that may well be different were I to be in their position.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

I must have terribly misread the gross generalization along the lines of “I like the flavors in less manipulated wine so it really matters to me whether a wine is manipulated or not.”

Thanks for clearing things up Keith.

That is not my experience. At least in terms of Pinot Not (american and burgundy) and Beaujolais. I certainly enjoy many wines that are more heavily manipulated (champagne for example) but I have a special fondness for very low input wines.

There is no one variable in the many variables of winemaking that are an outright deal killers as each variable depends on other decisions that are made to produce a final product. When a wine has been heavily manipulated I tend to like that style less. Im talking about generalities, there are excepions to the rules on both sides but Ive noticed a clear trend.

Just as a side note, I made Pinot in my garage this year in sanitized fermenters in a place I had never made wine in before. Fermentations started up on their own no problem. I mention this because your last sentence seems to imply that it can’t happen?

I think you have! That statement doesn’t seem at all equivalent in meaning to the position you describe in the first quote - nor is it an actual quote from anyone (the first part is, but the second part you added).

Who said that? Are you accidently making a straw man argument by making assumptions?

That is a very condesending additude.

Sorry, I missed some of your questions:

I have had very in-depth conversations with some winemakers whose wine I really like. I feel confident they were not lieing to my face especially as I would consider some of them friends. FWIW, all are pragmatists who came by their methodologies via trial and error as opposed to coming from a perspective of idealism. And then with producers like Fourrier, Ponsot and Foillard, I would give them the bennefit of the doubt that they aren’t liars.

I also made some pinot as a hobbyist so I have a little bit of firsthand experience on the matter. I did some experiments with single variable tests to see what the results would be and I typically liked the batches that had less human inputs.

I doubt you would be surprised. The name I saw and rumors I have heard about did not include any low-intervention winemakers.


I hate to say it…but some of them would lie to your face and others wouldn’t. Same goes for high-intervention winemakers. There are honest people and liars in all winemaking camps.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines