Historically fine wine has been defined by the market, limited to a set of sought-after producers from eminent wine regions.
These wines and producers are rated highly by critics with prices to match. Prestige and market value take precedence over the wine’s production and drinkability. We’re taking a different approach.
The wine world has diversified considerably since Johnson started writing in the 60s, so if we are to use his definition, perhaps it’s time to look beyond the ‘classic’ regions of Europe and acknowledge there are wines being made all over the wine world worth talking about.
It’s time to look beyond the ‘classic’ regions of Europe and acknowledge there are wines being made all over the wine world worth talking about.
Many wine regions became famous through geographical or historical accident. Yes, they have good soils and climates, but they aren’t uniquely gifted in that regard. More recently talented growers – often with minds opened by travel – have begun to reveal the latent personality of grape varieties and regions where before there hadn’t been the same interest or ambition. They focus on local grapes which are well adapted to their home, rather than using famous varieties that might be easy to sell, but which aren’t good conduits of place.
Travel to any region, and you will find producers who are recognised by their peers to be making exciting, compelling wines. The driving philosophy here is usually the notion of terroir. The combination of soil, climate, grape variety and the human choices made in both the vineyard and cellar which allow winegrowers to forge wines with a sense of place – a local flavour.
With the new fine wines there is a connection between the vineyard and the winery - farming vines well - is a key aspect of making interesting wine. They will always be made by people who care about their place, who avoid over-ripeness or using too much oak, both of which obscure a sense of place. The new fine wines that have freshness, drinkability and honesty.
With the new fine wines there is a connection between the vineyard and the winery - farming vines well - is a key aspect of making interesting wine.
And with these wines, we are looking for beauty, not perfection. Beauty is multifaceted. It is diverse. We are looking for character and personality, not sterility. We don’t like faulty wines. No one does. But we also hate strict definitions of wine ‘faults’ that basically rule out many wines that show personality. Some ‘faults’ are always faults, but others are very much context dependent.
The world of wine has changed, and with it, the notion of fine wine must evolve. Welcome to the new fine wine.