Making Wines with Finesse

The mantra for the quest for making a big blockbuster type of wine is “more is better” — more sugar in the grapes, more alcohol in the wine, more extraction, more color and more wood. (And in the commercial marketplace, usually more bucks per bottle.) So if that’s not your style, what’s the alternative? No, it’s not wimpy wine, or thin or pale or mediocre wine, but wine with finesse. The alternative to sheer power isn’t weakness. It is, as the American Heritage Dictionary sees it, “Refinement and delicacy of performance, execution, or artisanship.” It’s the light touch, the slow hand; it’s Billie Holiday, not Lady Gaga. And it’s not just a quality that magically ends up in some wines and not others; it’s a way of approaching your winemaking, a methodology, a subtle series of tactical maneuvers. American Heritage offers this as its final definition: “A stratagem in which one appears to decline an advantage.” Passing on more may deliver better. Making finesse a goal immediately raises two problems. First, it’s a subjective characteristic and hard to quantify. By