02-Planeta_manchette_175x100
Allegrini 2018
INTERVIEW

Michel Rolland, from the increase in the alcohol content of wines to resistant vines

Outspoken, provocative, but also optimistic about the future of wine: to WineNews the most influential winemaker of our time

From the increase in the alcohol content of wines, considered a false problem “which interests journalist and not consumers”, to the ecological transition of wine towards sustainability and bio, fundamental and irreversible process which, however, require time and study, because the quality of the wine remains an essential theme; from the value of the corporate brand, which has proved even more decisive in these difficult months of pandemic, to the bright future of wine and viticulture, thanks to a generation of young oenologists and winemakers with great international experience: there are many reflections, collected by WineNews, in the interview with Michel Rolland, the most influential oenologist of our time, now signature and consultant of wines and wineries of Tuscany, such as Masseto, Ornellaia and Tenuta di Biserno, and, from some years, also Caprai in Umbria, for Sagrantino and more. Master of the Bordeaux blend, Michel Rolland, with his modern idea of winemaking, he helped bring the wines of Bordeaux and France to the world stage, with the same success, he then influenced the way of making wine everywhere, from California to Argentina, Chile and without forgetting Italy. Now, after 40 years of career at the highest levels, he analyzes trends and visions of the future. Starting from the topic of alcohol content, “which is increasing in all the vineyards of the world: I say no to low alcohol wines, and I say no for a very simple reason, because once the alcohol content was not shown on the label, so no one knew the alcohol content of the wine, and no one guessed it, and all good wines, great wines, had a high alcohol content, there were no great wines with little alcohol. Do consumers ask for wines with a low alcohol content? I say it is not like that – says Rolland – it is journalist who ask for low-alcohol wines, not consumers, because consumers do not look at the alcohol content on the label, it is the journalist who look at it. As regard global warming, we live in a period in which we have go tinto the habit of harvesting very ripe grapes, and this gives us the opportunity to drink good wines in Italy, France and anywhere in the world, differntly from what happened 30 or 40 years ago, when there were some bad wines, in particular in Italy, but also in France, Spain and in the other large producing countries”, continues Rolland. The focus therefore, shifts to the viticulture of the future, which must be sustainable, from an environmental but also an economic and social point of view. “Cultural change, both in the management of the vineyard and in the mentality of the people, is fundamental. I believe that it is important for everyone to go towards organica, towards crops that respect the environment, crops that, more simply, respect life, and on this point we must change to move forward. What I find a bit ridiculous is wanting to make these changes in a very short time, it is not possible to do it from one year to the next”, says Michel Rolland. “we study, we prepare, we need different behaviours, of time. All over the world there is talk of biological agriculture, respect for the environment, this is the direction that has been taken, but we must give time to change. There are other solutions, besides biological and biodynac, which in any case have given excellent results where the climate is favorable”. The risk is that biological and biodynamic are reduced to marketing phenomena, rather than to good practices, because, says Rolland, “if we take into account the state of the art of biological and biodynamic culture, we note that it has a disproportionate effect on marketing compared to the actual results, because the bio epresents a small percentage of wine. It is like when we take care of the disabled or blind people: it is important that we talk about it, but there are not only disabled people in the world, and then it is necessary to speak also of the others. I have a property in Argentina, where I make biological products, but I don’t put it on the label because I don’t want to take advantage of it in terms of marketing, I find that there is an abuse of this word. There are many lies behind all of this – tells Rolland - but I remain convinced that in the future another type of culture will prevail, and I propose again my usual answer: we have to take time for this transition, and we have to do it well. Wine doesn’t have to suffer, for me drinking bad biological wine doesn’t make sense, it’s a stupid thing that we have to stop. In any case, the first thing to do in order to face the market is to produce a good wine, very good wine. Also because marketing and commercialization are aspects that many cannot manage well, it is complicated and the competition is strong, and as in all forms of competition, who runs faster comes first, so you need to run faster, have ideas, move. The product is important, but the space in which you move is equally important”. An important role, in this context, is played by the “strong brands”, especially in the affirmation of a Denomination and a territory in the world. “The brand is very important in the world of wine, we have seen it in the last year, all the brands that have established themselves are brands that have a reputation, an international name. For an established brand it is easier, because it has greater visibility on the market, and consumers who travel, get used to buying wine, find their brand in every country. This applies to companies that have large volumes – explains the oenologist - while for those with small volumes it is more complicated, because their visibility on the market is reduced, and it is therefore necessary to focus on high-end consumers, who appreciate quality: quality wines are needed for quality consumers, but it will still be difficult to have global visibility on the market”. Another novelty that appears on the market, precisely in Rolland’s Bordeaux, is that which concerns resistant varieties, which are being tested, but which could replace the traditional grape varieties of today’s wine, a hypothesis on which the winemaker is rather skeptical. “In Bordeaux there is a saying about wine production: making wine is easy, the difficult thing is the first 5 years. So I believe that the same thing applies to these new varieties, the first 5 years will be difficult, but in any case I really want to see traditional vines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot or Cabernet Franc replaced with something else”. Looking to the future, and to the possibilities that the world of wine offers also in terms of employment and economic recovery, Rolland underlines how “if today I work in every corner of the world, 40 years ago, when I started my business, it wasn’t like that, I worked exclusively in Bordeaux, just as the Italians worked in Italy and the Spaniards in Spain. Today there is a generation of young, highly motivated, very gifted winemakers with a wealth of knowledge. Many things have been discovered in recent years, and it is no coincidence – says Michel Rolland - that wine has never been so good, because teams of highly skilled people work there. I am very calm about the quality of the wine, which young winemakers will be able to make to measure, on demand, with more acidity, with less color, or less alcohol. You can make quality wines, so the future of wine is assured: give space to young people, let them do it, because, worldwide, from California to South America, passing through Europe, there is a generation of winemakers in launch pad”. Finally, a consideration, on the importance of being a number 1 and on the awareness of not being “the” number 1, because in the world of wine there are many oenologists capable of making spectacular wines. “Do you know what the problem of numbers 1 is ? That I cannot be the only one. I should have killed so many other people who made good wines. There are many winemakers who have made excellent wines, which I would have liked to have made myself. I say this openly when I taste them, I say that it is a good wine and that I wish I had made it myself. And this is fortunate for consumers, because what I produce represents a very small part of the wine production, it would not be enough for everyone, it is normal that there are other people who know how to make great wines “, concludes Michel Rolland.

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