Wine Wabi-Sabi

by blog on April 26, 2018

Te Whare Ra vineyards (Photo credit: Te Whare Ra)

There are two broadly opposed approaches to farming and winemaking that illustrate the personal aesthetic of those people who are involved in the process. One is to see farming and winemaking as cold commercial scientific or technological activities designed to generate consistent outcomes; the other is to view these as part of life, part of the unpredictable expression of nature and means to self-expression.

Listening to the needs of the vineyard and the vines themselves, working diligently by hand, and trying to capture the energy of the place and the patterns of nature.

Product control starts in the vineyard with the use of chemicals. Everything has its place, everything must be defined, efficiencies are paramount, prevention is important. The farming, the grapes, the winemaking are all a means to an end, the creation of a product for a purpose. The opposite of this is not laissez-faire but working by feeling; listening to the needs of the vineyard and the vines themselves, working diligently by hand, and trying to capture the energy of the place and the patterns of nature. The person who works like this views wine as unique and evolving, just as nature is.

Davenport vineyards (Photo credit: Will Davenport)

Oppositions: wine wabi-sabi

Logical, rational – decisions made by oenologists to ensure specific outcomes

Intuitive – vigneron(nes) working purely by means of taste and instinct

Absolute- there are only right and wrong choices in winemaking and only good and bad wines

Relative – perception of quality is relative both in winemaking and in aesthetic responses to wine

Prototypical – Wine must conform to a pre-ordained style

Idiosyncratic – Wine must always be itself

Modular – winemaking is formed of a series of sequenced tasks for a specific purpose

Variable – the wine will lead the vigneron on a journey which may take many directions

Control of nature- the requirement to manipulate nature at every level in order to create a stable product

Harmony with nature –to work with nature, accept what it gives, and humbly accompany the wine on its journey

Technology – technology, utensils, controls that refine and polish the wine

Nature – the wine is free. Natural transformations take place without equipment determining precise outcomes

Symmetrical, Square – a wine that is self-contained, is solid, easily described and circumscribed

Organic– a wine that changes according to its mood, is not geometric or static but is fluid

Slick, polished, smooth – a wine that is easy, soft, rounded, with nothing out of place

Crude, rough, tactile – something raw, texturally compelling, lingering

Reduction/subjugation of senses – where one focuses purely on the architecture of the wine itself, the way that it is made, and the way that all its components fit together

Expansion of senses – wines that liberate the senses to see beyond the confines of the material of the wine itself and appeal to our imagination and fancies

Clarity – the wine is a clear construct, it has been put together for a recognisable purpose

Ambiguity – The wine does not communicate a single intention, but suggests many things

Functionality – The wine has a material purpose and that is to be a consistent product

Naturalness – The wine has no material purpose other than to exist

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