So I am here in Izmir, Turkey for the 5th European Wine Bloggers’ Conference. It is a well-organised an incredibly productive event. The three main keynotes gave enough food for a week’s thought. Christian Payne, who moved from being a pro photographer and reporter to what he self-defines as ‘storymaker’ (his fascinating website is Documentally and he tweets here) indeed has some great stories up his sleeve, including about his pair of jeans that actually run their own blog.
Randall Grahm had a provocative but I think very lucid talk on the future of wine, including how the top wines from the New World will move towards greater terroir expression, reducing the ‘noise’ of interventionist winemaking, going back to dry farming, and blends more than varietal wines. But one of Graham’s most provocative bouts came when he advocated planting vines from seeds instead of propagating them from cuttings as is the universal norm; that, he argues, would produce a more individual root development and genetic variation in the vineyard, resulting in more complexity and terroir expression in the finished wines.
Andrew Jefford was in top shape too as he addressed the current condition of wine writing and the challenges that lie ahead for wine communication. He pointed out the tradition wine writer, making a comfortable living out of magazine editing and official press trips, is a dying species and writers need to requalify into multitasking wine communicators. But in wine writing, the sauce will remain more important than the meat and so style, personal engagement, and specialisation in one specific wine area will be vital for authors to suceed.
In one of the afternoon session scientists Patrick McGovern (his books include Ancient Wine) and José Vouillamoz (co-author with Jancis Robinson and Julia Harding of the monumental Wine Grapes) summarised their latest findings on the origin of vine cultivation. Based on archaeological research and DNA profiling of grape varieties, they came to the conclusion that the grape was first domesticated in the late iron age in several areas of Anatolia, modern-day Armenia and Georgia. (A secondary domestication probably happened at some point in Spain). The 10,000 grape varieties grown throughout the world derive from a few wild plants in the Tigris river valley. Food for thought…