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Honesty shows in the bottle

By Dave Buchanan
Earlier tonight I was sitting across from my pal Sal Sassano, sharing a bottle of his 2006 Cabernet Franc. You won't find this wine in any store, since Sal is strictly small-time, a transplanted Sicilian with a love for the grape that must be DNA-connected. It's light-colored, as cab franc should be, with a delightful bit of acidity because Sal doesn't over-ripen his grapes. As typical in our get-togethers, we were chatting about wines and winemaking and the assorted truths and not-so-truths that accompany an endeavor of the heart and somehow (not surprising) we got into winemakers who "spoof" their wines, as described succinctly by my dear wine-blogging colleague Alice Feiring. Feiring (as in come out 'firing') recently published her first book, "The Battle for Wine and Love, or How I saved the World from Parkerization." This might prove to be THE book on identifying "spoofilated" wines. Winemakers who spoof their wines are trying so hard to get Parker points or to please someone else's (anyone else's!) palate they add such things as designer yeasts or need fancy machines (reverse osmosis or micro-oxygenation, anyone?) to achieve a result for which the grapes really weren't suited. In her book, Feiring write, "A winemaker needs tools. But I believe that technology, science and business had squelched the creativity, immediacy and urgency once inherent in winemaking." Instead of more scientists, Feiring says, winemaking needs more philosophers. I mentioned this to Sal and he looked at me. Then he nodded towards the vines growing a few feet outside his door and pointed at the bottle. "Honesty," he said. And if he had said nothing else, I would have understood. "That's what you have here is honesty," he continued. "I know what's in this bottle and it's no more than what that vineyard gave me. I don't use fancy yeasts or those machines, I take the grapes and make the wine. That's all I can do, that's all I want to do." "My cousins (growing up in Sicily) couldn't even write their names and they made great wine,"he said. "What does that say about winemaking? It's here (he touched his chest) and out there in the vineyard. Honesty." That's what a wine should be, a reflection of what the vineyard gave and the winemaker translated. Lucky for us who seek those wines, there still are winemakers who share our belief in the honesty of the grape.

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