BENGALURU: A renowned British wine expert, Steven Spurrier was in the city recently. Known as Champion of French Wine, he has authored several books on wines and is credited to spearhead the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 which promoted the expansion of wine production in the new world. In a quick chat with Steven, City Express explores his journey and what makes the best wine.
You have been in the industry since 1960s. How do you think has the wine industry evolved over the decades?
Piero Antinori was quoted as saying at the 650th anniversary of the House of Antinori that “There has been more change in Tuscany (region in Central Italy) in the past 20 years than in the past 200.” I think this is the same for the whole of Europe. Many parts of the New World weren’t even producing wine, India being amongst them. The final thing is that the clientele is totally and utterly different. In the UK, only the upper and professional classes drank wine but now everyone does. In Europe, wine was drunk like water in huge quantities, now people are drinking less but better.
What are the key factors that you need to keep in mind to produce a good wine?
A properly sited vineyard, properly chosen vines with clones and rootstocks to match, sustainable viticulture, harvesting grapes when they are ripe and treating them as naturally as possible. Harmony and respect for the vineyard is the key.
How do you monitor the maturity of grapes to harvest?
The sugars can be tested but the final decision when to pick is made by tasting the grapes. If they taste fully ripe, it is time to pick.
How important is viticulture for a wine maker?
These are two different approaches. Piero Masi is both a viticulturist and a winemaker, but this is rare. Basically the wine maker should ask the viticulturist to do what he does best, ie provide ripe healthy grapes, and then he/she will do what they do best, produce a ripe, healthy wine.
How do the taste of wines vary with the varieties of grapes?
The tastes are very different. There are some families of grapes, ie the Cabernet family, but even within the family, they are different.
How has your journey so far been like?
I joined the wine trade 52 years ago and it has been a fascinating, albeit bumpy, ride. I am writing my memoirs entitled “Wine, a Way of Life” and you can read about it when the book is published next autumn.
How can one pursue a career in wine making?
It is never well paid, compared to other professions, but it is extremely rewarding as a profession.