Color, weight, balance, intensity, feeling. These are terms used in visual art to describe perception. Add the words aroma, taste, and mouth feel, and you will have embodied a portion of the essence of what we seek in wine. Like individual visual artists, a winemaker must choose the materials, processes, and preferences to achieve a particular outcome. The initial point of entry of this journey is the grapevines. Grapes are the winemaker’s canvas and paint. Every artist or winemaker starts with similar raw materials whether it is canvas, paint, or grapes.
Grapes grown in Iowa are not the same as those available in California or other regions of moderate climate. Of course, winemakers are not limited to their own growing region. Anyone can purchase grapes from other areas of the country. However, most winemakers choose to grow their own crop as part of their endeavor to create an affordable, local product. Historically artists have always used resources that are nearby and gathered inspiration to what they experience around them in their own environment.
The artist must assemble the frame, stretch and prime the canvas to prepare for the paint. Size, shape and surface are taken into consideration for the final product. The winemaker cultivates the crop throughout the season by pruning, clearing the soil of weeds and nurturing the roots that reach deep underground for nourishment. The grapes emerge from tiny buds, then to flowers, and finally to recognizable fruit.
The painter creates the visual expression using judgment from experience, knowledge and an intuitive sense. Most of the time the process advances smoothly as expected. Other times happy accidents occur which leads the artist down an alternative creative path. On the other hand, the vision may be thwarted by obstacles and the artist must discard the canvas and start again.
Fermentation and aging of the wine happens after the grapes are harvested, pressed into juice and contained into tanks. The winemaker must use judgment, experience and an intuitive sense to manipulate taste, color, balance, and finish time. Many unforeseen perils can occur at this point or later that may spoil the wine and all the work invested has been in vain. Thankfully, the majority of the time the wine is finished as the winemaker expected.
The winemaker and the artist both start with the materials available to all who travel the road of creativity. They add their own unique vision and interpretation. The results reflect their judgment, experience, and knowledge. It is as unique as a signature that completes the work.
The painting is ready to hang on the wall. The winemaker’s art is poured into a glass.
Joann Schissel, Wine, art and story lover
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