Think about the most popular wine you know. It probably comes from a winery with a recognized name that everybody has heard of. The wine is easily accessible in many countries and it has a reasonable price. The reputation of the wine is quite solid and every year the wine seems to taste almost exactly the same as the previous vintage. People love this kind of product. It delivers every time, it is a secure bet and it doesn’t ‘cost the earth’.
Normally these wines are made in huge quantities by an equally huge company. The market pressure dictates flavour, price range and positioning. Advanced marketing strategies will make it look appealing as well.
All of the wines produced in this way have a place in the market and they are doing what they are supposed to do… filling up the shelves in the supermarkets to make sure you pick up one or more bottles during your weekly shop.
But, what about the small producers?
They don’t have a marketing team, an investment group behind them or a renowned wine that flies off the shelf. They really have to push their way through a tiny gap in the market to get their wines noticed and appreciated amongst all of the producers in their country of origin and beyond, and it is not a fair battle.
Not only do they have to care for their vines, harvest the grapes with the help of their family (normally unpaid work) and worry about the fermenting and aging processes, but they also have to deal with all of the other aspects of the wine business.
But, what about their product?
Is it any good? Many people fear the unknown and are unwilling to break free from their comfort zone. It can be a great disappointment if you do not choose your wine wisely!
When a wine has been made by a winemaker from a small vineyard, the attention to detail in every step of the production process is very noticeable. And this ultimately transfers to the final product. It is a signature that you can taste once the wine has been poured into your glass. After all, if you only have 5 barrels of wine to look after, you are going to put all of your attention into those barrels to ensure the wine inside is progressing well.
For me, this is why it is interesting to search for wines that come from small producers. I love discovering unique wines that are created in a different way to any other wines I have tried before. I also love listening to a winemaker who talks passionately about their vines as well as their final product.
But, how do you find wines from small producers?
Firstly, do not go to a supermarket. Small producers avoid pitting their wines against the big names. You are more likely to find them in smaller, specialised stores or at your local wine merchant. In these establishments you should be able to find a knowledgeable member of staff who has already tasted the wine and may even know the producer. They will then advise you accordingly.
Another great way to discover these wines is to visit the wineries. We are very lucky here in Mallorca. There are approximately 90 vineyards to choose from, all of them relatively small. Go to the smallest vineyards you can find, talk to the producers and ask them what drives them to make their wine. Most of the time they will tell you they have a hard working family behind them and a passionate, driven team to help them fulfil their dream. I am pretty sure that at least one wine from their collection will seduce your senses.
Be brave with your choices. I constantly meet or hear of people that only drink wine from one specific region or one particular brand (for example, a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand). I’m not knocking the wines they choose but I do find it frustrating that they are potentially missing out on so many other fantastic, interesting wines from all over the world. You can now get a Mencia from Ribeira Sacra as easily as you can get a French Bordeaux so expand your horizons. The experience of tasting wines that are outside your comfort zone will broaden your palate and you will appreciate a larger range of wines from all over the world. How many of you have enjoyed a bottle of Swiss Pinot Noir or a Mallorcan Callet?
You have so little to lose when you choose a wine from a small vineyard. Not only are you helping an enthusiastic entrepreneur and their family, but you are also supporting the traditional aspects of the trade and a small community economy.
Your taste buds will appreciate the adventure too!