How the idea of rootstocks came to be
Through my brokerage business in fruit juices and concentrates I have always been in touch with companies involved in grape juice concentrate... and wine. Mainly through the lovely people behind these companies in Italy, Portugal, Spain, Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina, I got to learn about wine. The basics of terroir, rootstocks, harvest, pruning, weather and time, grape skin, cork and bottles, fermentation and yeast.
“No story you hear is the same.”
So for years I have been intrigued by the wine-making profession. It is complex, it is passionate and very emotional: the connection between a winemaker(‘s family), his craft and Mother Nature result in a love/hate relationship. One that is different every year and one that causes multiple emotions along the year.
Hearing, seeing and especially tasting the results of these emotions is special. And no story you hear is the same.
Usually I come back from those trips with a head full of stories and thoughts, but they slowly fade and are only revived when I see a bottle of wine of one of the houses, chateaux or bodegas I visited.
But after my last trip a couple of things stuck with me. Maybe it was the intensity of the trip (literally 24 hours, more on that below) and the fact that it had all the necessary ingredients, maybe it was simply the stage I am in in my personal life…
In any case, I felt a lot of impulses to do something. To actually share that certain feeling and emotion that made a wine experience fuller, better, at another level of reference.
We see a lot of changes in all industries. I see developments in tech that bring new twists and opportunities to the beautiful artisanal profession of wine-making. Whether it is Internet of Things that allows for better monitoring of soil, or Blockchain for new ways to fight wine fraud and improve traceability... there is a lot going on. And I want to learn how current and future generations feel about these developments.
Rather than keeping all this to myself, I see it as a good moment to collect and share these valuable answers and opinions.
Both professionals and enthusiasts could have a better understanding of the most basic element of wines: its origin. Not just about the facts and figures (those you can look up), the rootstocks and variety, but especially about the location and the very specific conditions that make each wine unique. The latter mainly involving the personal part, the community, family & friendship stories that give the wine its full glory, enhance its flavor just a tad more.
This kind of stories are what makes a wine speak, these are the stories that you usually hear when visiting one of the wineries and when you have a chance to get close and personal with the winemaker. Something I hope you will experience reading the personal and in-depth stories in the rootstocks newsletters.
About that trip
So what was that trip that was the tipping point to create rootstocks?
Last June (2019) I traveled to the South of Brazil, to Bento Gonçalves in Vale do Vinhedos (Valley of the Vineyards). I make that trip about once/twice every two years. The area is special to me on multiple levels: It hosts one of our dear business relations for over 20 years; Due to its Italian immigrant history the food and the wine is amazing; It resembles the Italian Dolomiti (only greener) and… Well, this is the part where I have to disclose I have Italian roots myself (my mother) and already the first time I visited Bento I felt like coming home. The
people, the food… Oh the food! Once I spent 1 week there and came back 5
pounds heavier. Too good.
But we were talking about that trip. From Bento Gonçalves I went to Porto Alegre (still Brazil) and took a night bus to Santana do Livramento / Rivera on the border with Uruguay. Arriving in the morning was the start of 24 hours getting submerged in a world of Tannat, wine-making, wine-tasting, seeing the production process of sparkling wine, learning about yeast, seeing the different wine cellars, understanding more about terroir… and lots and lots of talking about legacy, family business, evolution of the consumers, the future of wine business and trends that may change that.
And when you have time to spend with good company, when you can talk without to much pressure, when you slowly roast a leg of lamb for about 3.5 hours while tasting, discussing multiple wines and talk about all things above, there is a lot of added value being created.
For me it was — again — a confirmation that visiting relations and spending quality time with them trumps Skype, emails and phone anytime.
Back to the company I was amongst: it was very good. I consider myself lucky to have encountered this person through my more close network. It is not often you meet someone who is so skilled, so passionate, so scientifically well-versed and yet so able to translate complex (natural) processes into wording that even I (with some but limited reference) can understand.
It helps that this winemaker is also a professor, specialized in enology. His name: Francisco Carrau.
Francisco Carrau — Bodega Cerro Chapeu
I trust you understand by now he will be the first winemaker to be
interviewed: Prof. Francisco Carrau, of Bodega Cerro Chapeu and Castel Pujol.
"Winemaking has always been an art; today it is also a science."
— Prof. Francisco Carrau*
A couple of reasons why the interview will trigger your interest:
- The variety that takes the lime light in this interview is Tannat
- When it comes to wine, Uruguay is still less renowned, yet has a much to offer
- Francisco is a 9th generation winemaker with a legacy dating back to 1752
- Not just a winemaker, Francisco Carrau is Professor and Head of the Enology Section of the Food Science Department of University of the Republic in Montevideo
- Francisco’s scientific influence in the enology community—for more than just Tannat—reaches far beyond Uruguay
- And well, it is the first of many interviews to follow, so this is the way to get a taste!
As you might imagine, there is a lot to discuss and explore and I think that the resulting first edition of rootstocks will be of great appeal to both wine professionals and wine enthusiasts.