International Cool Climate Wine Symposium 2016:
Jamie Goode's final talk at the 2016 ICCWS in
My job is to
close this International Cool Climate Wine Symposium. It’s a
difficult job, because it means I haven’t been able to prepare in
advance; rather, I’ve been taking notes all through the sessions and
then I’ve had to rapidly bring all my thoughts together in this
speech. As I was hastily preparing, I asked a friend: what shall I
fine,” was the response. “You're good at communicating. Either take
it the easy way, compliment everyone and make people laugh. Or the
hard and more interesting way and provoke everyone.” So I’ve chosen
the latter option. These are some of my thoughts, prompted by the
First of all,
“Cool climate” is a bit like “natural wine”. There’s no definition
for natural wine, but that doesn’t stop it being a useful term. Cool
climate is similar. One of the problems is that the way cool
climates have been typically defined, by using rather crude climate
indices such as growing degree days, isn’t really good enough. There
are other factors in play than simply heat summation, so we probably
need better indices. John Gladstones, in his book Wine, Terroir and
Climate Change, makes some interesting points. He notes that
phenological development in vines peaks at 19 ˚C. So if you ignore
extra degrees above this, and also make some subtractions for large
diurnal range fluctuations, and also adjust for daylength, you get a
better picture of climate from a vine’s point of view.
So what is
cool climate? It’s an appropriate climate for growing grapes for
fine wine, with the latter stages of ripening occurring during
autumn. Cool climate is a state of mind: it involves innovation,
facing challenges. Cool climate is where sparkling wine can be made
with fewest compromises on harvest dates.
pattern to the typical development of a cool climate wine region.
They usually kick off when someone is crazy enough to plant some
vines, against better advice. Initially, lots of varieties are
trialled, and there’s a process of accidental discovery. The initial
goal is to make drinkable wine, and the first successes pave the way
for the second wave. There’s increasing professionalization, and the
industry begins to mature and find a voice. International
recognition follows, as success breeds success.
has been important in the ongoing development of cool climate wine
regions, but it’s a ‘frenemy’. The development of cool climate
regions has tracked rises in temperature over recent decades. But
climate change has been coupled with increased climate variability,
which will bring increased costs to viticulture. Growers will have
to budget more carefully for yield losses or failed harvests, and
some vintages will see significant loss of quality through climate
I’m not a
marketing expert, but it seems clear to me that a really smart
strategy in the global wine world is to do one thing well. ‘We are
quite good at lots of things,’ is all to common a message, and while
diversity sounds interesting, it’s a terrible marketing message.
Champagne is a
great example of doing one thing well. It’s a large region that
makes one style of wine. It’s possible to make still wines in
Champagne, and these can be pretty good, but why would you? Make
them, by all means, but don’t – as a region – talk about them, and
confuse your message.
For the UK, I
think it’s clear that we should stick with sparkling wine. It should
be our message, and what we show the world. Let’s use a sporting
metaphor. Messi as acknowledged to be the world’s leading soccer
player. Now imagine you took him down the nets and he turned out to
be a useful cricketer – good enough to get a game at a local club.
Should he focus a bit on that? Of course not. The UK can make good
still wines, but it can make world class sparkling.
is one of the wine world’s great success stories. Here’s a region
that is able to make very good red and white wines, but it is now
focusing on rosé. Its pink wines are selling for high prices, and
are getting better all the time. This is a region that has also been
successful in innovating with bottle shapes and sizes. There’s a
coherence between the image of Provence as a region, and the message
the wines convey. It all works.
New Zealand is
a great example for cool climate wine countries to follow: Central
Otago and Marlborough are two regions that have always had a clear
brand proposition. For Marlborough, it is Sauvignon Blanc – and a
style of Sauvignon that has redefined this variety. Exuberant,
expressive and immediately recognizable, it’s also really
consistent, which helps explains New Zealand’s high average bottle
price. Central Otago has been a great success as a monovarietal
region: it’s all about Pinot Noir, and consistently good Pinot that
seems to reflect the place well. Both these regions do other things
well, but their incredible recent success is due to presenting
themselves to the world with a concise, plausible marketing message.
So, what are
the keys to marketing for cool climate wines?
You need a
simple message. Coupled with consistent quality. An export focus
keeps you honest, because you are testing and benchmarking all the
time. And collaboration is important (for the UK, it’s important
that everyone works together, and that there isn’t any hurry to
conference has had a lot of scientific content, and I think it is
important that while we value science, we also recognize its limits.
We science types can’t afford to be scientific fundamentalists: we
must be humble in the face of wine. We have to respect the empirical
approach, and the knowledge accumulated by a winegrower who knows
their land well, batch ferments and then follows the wine in the
cellar. Wine scientists sometimes lack an understanding of wine, and
could benefit from being more interested in interesting wine. They
would benefit from travelling the world visiting producers and
spending time in vineyards.
science well is difficult. Often experiments are being done on quite
limited terroirs, on relatively short timescales. Also, doing small
batch ferments/microvinifications well is really difficult. Sensory
work is even more difficult. Add into the mix that it is very hard
to transplant results from one site to another, and then the
application of science to winegrowing becomes quite difficult. A
further issue to bear in mind is that the rules for commercial wine
are different from fine wine.
challenge for any wine producer starting out is finding a route to
market. The precise route will depend very much on where in the
market you are playing. There is not just one wine market, but
rather several, which all overlap to a degree. Market segmentation
is vital in any discussion of wine, but often it is forgotten. In
many ways, distribution as important as winemaking: if you get
distribution right, then people will find your wine and you will
sell some. Currently, much of the wine world suffers from a mismatch
between the scale of production and the demands of the marketplace.
It’s also worth remembering that wine is a unique product, and has
to be treated differently.
One of the big
threats facing wine producers is the race to the bottom, with
retailers selling wine ever more cheaply. The commodization of wine
is a disaster, because it ends up in profitability being stripped
out. This commoditization occurs when you separate wine from place.
In this conference we’ve had some talk about technology, and how it
can help with the problems cool climate winemakers face. But
‘technological solutions’ often lead to uniform wines with no sense
of place. As a wine producer, your only competitive advantage is
place. I would also add that we need to be cautious of the
unintended consequences of changing wine laws, even if these changes
are well intentioned.
want to say a few words about the neglected stars of the wine world:
microbes. The role of yeasts and bacteria in wine production is
underappreciated. Grape juice contains few of the qualities of wine.
It’s only after the action of microbes that we have all these
characters that make wine such a compelling beverage.
particularly struck by Mat Goddard’s research on microbial ecology.
His studies on yeasts in vineyards and wineries has proved that
there is definitely a biological component to terroir. Bacteria are
especially neglected in the wine world, and there’s increasing
evidence that they can have a significant flavor impact on wine.
important to think about the microbial life in vineyards. What is
the role of soil microlife in influencing vine growth? There is
evidence of important interactions between microbes and vine roots
that affect how the vine grows. It would be interesting to compare
the effects on the soil of using herbicide/no-till/working the soil.
This will prove to be a really important are for future research, if
we want to understand the effect of vineyard site on wine quality.