“I hate tasting barrels!” said a winemaker—and friend/customer for two decades—to me this week at the Eastern Winery Expo in Lancaster, PA. And of course he didn’t mean he hated the act of tasting wine. (I mean, isn’t the taste of wine why we’re all in this industry?) He meant that he wasn’t a fan of the ritual of walking around the cellar with barrel reps and a wine thief, trying to figure out where the wines were in their journey and trying to make assumptions about barrels/cooperages at that moment. Because wine is always on some sort of journey, from the planting of the vines to bottling and beyond. Tasting barrels during aging is no different: it gives you a mere snapshot of the wine at one point in its life; give it another few weeks and the impression can be slightly or even entirely different. Some winemakers love tasting barrels and the discussion and insights between us, and some prefer to taste their barrels right before blending, alone with their team or their thoughts. It’s my job to understand customer preferences and support and participate—or not—in whatever way best serves the winery and, most importantly, the wine. It never ceases being interesting. Cheers to unique winemaking styles, friends!
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