Interview with Natalie Berkowitz, author of "The Winemaker's Hand"

Natalie Berkowitz, The Winemaker's HandThe following is an interview with Natalie Berkowitz, author of The Winemaker’s Hand: Conversations on Talent, Technique, and Terroir:

Question: You obviously talked to many different winemakers for your book, were there particular approaches to the craft that united them all?

Natalie Berkowitz: I’ve always marveled at the diversity of human creativity. Generations of artists used the same colors but their paintings represent their personal visions. The concept compelled me to write The Winemaker’s Hand. Unlike consistent products like Coca Cola, Tropicana Orange Juice and Heinz Ketchup, wine lovers are treated to a plethora of wines from different regions crafted from an amazing number of varietals.

The Winemaker’s Hand is a compilation of conversations with more than 40 vintners from many viticultural regions around the world. They reveal how all winemakers wrest with their soils and the forces of nature, (or terroir) to create a wine that represents their individual talents, passions, expertise, vision, philosophy, and historical traditions. All these factors are integral to what goes into a bottle of wine. After all, the grapes don’t jump into the bottles themselves, it’s what makes winemaking both and art and a science.

Q: Are there new technologies that are currently changing the way in which wine is made?

NB: Because of new technologies, wine has improved around the world since the last part of the 20th century: steel fermentation tanks, better barrels, more comprehensive information from chemical analysis, and a better understanding of which varietals fare better in different terrors. Winemakers are generous souls, willing to share ideas about new technologies with their peers.

Q: You talk about the importance of developing one’s own personal taste rather than relying on critics’ judgments. How did you form your own personal taste? Where is a good place to start for readers who don’t know much about wine?

NB: Newbies to the world of wine should think of each bottle as a blind date. If they like it, they should begin an adventure to explore the region, the varietal, the winery and the winemaker. Or move on to explore the ever-expanding possibilities of wine in the market place. Wine is constantly evolving and our taste buds. My advice is to ignore the old constricting rules about red with meat and white with fish. Many wines will cross over quite nicely.

Ignore wine ratings in magazines created by individuals who set themselves up as authorities. After all, their tastes and criteria might not agree with yours. Let your tongue and taste buds be your real guide.

9 Responses

  1. I’m a wine lover, and a reasonably knowledgeable wine enthusiast; I’ve not had the opportunity though to hear from the winemakers of many of my favorite wineries. “Winemaker’s Hand” fills that gap nicely; I’m hearing from the winemakers, not some stand-in. And then, there are the wine and food pairing recipes recommended by the winemakers themselves; we’ve already tried a few of the suggested meals with similar wines. We’re looking forward to many more such experiences. Thank you Natalie.

  2. This book puts a whole new spin on the wbo, why, and how of winemaking. It’s a fascinating look at how different winemakers engage in the creative process of making wine and the difference it can make to those who enjoy drinking it.

  3. The Winemaker’s Hand is a practical and user friendly approach to making wine. This book provides insight how wines are as different as the winemakers personality, in a most enlightening and interesting way straight from the source. A good and fun read.

  4. A wine’s first job is to be a sound, good wine. The winemaker uses their technical expertise to assure that. After that, the winemaker’s hand comes into play. That’s when experience, vision and intuition take over, guaranteeing that no two wines taste alike, even if the grapes come from the same source. That explains why good wine can be made by committee, but there is always be a person behind great wine.

  5. The French term “terroir” refers not only to all the aspects of the site (micro-climate, soil, and exposure) but also the interaction with all of these by the individual winemaker. This is what Natalie captures in The Winemaker’s Hand, and as Cathy says above, explains why no two wines taste the same even if from the same site. I am enjoying reading the insights and perspectives of the other winemakers as it will lead me to find more nuances as I try their wine.

  6. The Winemaker’s Hand offers an insider’s look at many of the diverse ways in which winemaking can be approached. Whether dealing with terroir, Mother Nature, a vision, innovation or tradition, or style and grape variety preferences, winemakers are all over the map — thus creating a wonderfully interesting gamut of wines for us to enjoy. That every harvest is different enhances the pleasure of learning about it.

  7. Natalie Berkowitz’ The Winemaker’s Hand is an informative and fun read. Being more of casual wine consumer and not any kind of connoisseur I was amazed by what I did NOT know about my favorite beverage. Ms. Berkowitz shows us how, with a simple fruit taken through delicate and precise cultivation, sometimes from recipes centuries old, the “hand” of the winemaker becomes one of an artist as well as artisan. I cannot recommend this book enough to those out there who are looking to expand their knowledge and appreciation for one of civilization’s oldest beverages.

  8. Thanks a lot to Natalie Berkowitz for this fascinating conversation about “winemaking” all over the world.
    When I read the book I feel passion for vine and wine.
    The land and the terroir give us so much that my duty is to sublimate their expression in the bottle.That’s why I consider myself more as a winehelper than a winemaker. Understanding and respect of the origin, everything is done to show how the Margaux wine is unique.

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