Sometimes, it seems like all winemakers have the exact same pitch when talking about their winemaking. I get to read a lot of winemaker biographies and property descriptions, and they just say the same things over and over and it starts sounding a like its own language: wine bollocks. Even my own winemaker statement on this website has significant bits of winespeak in it. How do you describe your vines or terroir without sounding like everybody else? How do you talk about your winemaking philosophy without the word passion?
Anyway, these serious questions aside, I decided to have some fun with the archetypal winemaker statements. Since most winemakers generally make the exact same claims about their vineyards, I thought I’d summarize the rules for making a generic, forgettable winemaker bio.
How to write a generic, forgettable winemaker biography
Here are a few rules to follow if you want to sound like every other winemaker who has ever described his or her vineyard/winery.
Rule #1 – Use the word “passion” repeatedly
This is simple. You have to use the word passion or passionate at least once. Talking about your passion ensures the reader that you are in fact passionate because, after all, you said so.
example: Pierre’s wines reflect his passion about the land.
If you fail to talk about passion, everybody will assume you do not care about your job. Conversely, if you use the word more than once or include synonymous concepts like authenticity, this will promote the notion that you are a highly engaged and loving winemaker.
example: Pierre is passionate that his wines should be an accurate and authentic reflection of the land.
Rule #2 – Your terroir is unique
Defend the uniqueness and rarity of your vineyard’s geographical position.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is unique in the world.
Using government denominations is very popular, especially if they are obscure and unpronouncable.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, the tiniest and most unique appellation in the world.
Rejecting government denomitaions shows that you are really cool because your land is good enough to use the appellation but you deem that the system is beneath you in some way.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, the tiniest and most unique appellation in the world, but he labels his wine as a simple Vin de Pays because he doesn’t care for the pretense and archaic bureaucracy of his denomination.
edit: contribution by Michael Cox from Wines of Chile – You may want to show people that you were the only person who dared to plant vines where you are. This can be done simply enough by making generalizations about the locals.
example: When Pierre first planted his vines in this area, the locals all said he was mad.
If you’ve picked a place that is truly unique and rare, it is likely obscure. You may want to inform people as to where your vineyard actually is.
example: Pierre’s vineyard is in the AOP Coteaux de Malbaraient, a small sliver of land in the south of France.
Using rich language can conjure up a specific image in the reader’s mind despite the fact that they have no idea where your vineyard is located geographically. Again, don’t underestimate the impressiveness or appeal of unpronouncable proper nouns.
example: Pierre toils in his century-old Grenache vines perched atop the rocky, south-facing slope of the sun-drenched Plateau du Saux-Manues.
Often, a winemaker will choose to describe the location of the vineyard by placing it between two other objects (eg mountain ranges, sea fronts, climatic influences, etc.)
example: Pierre’s century-old Grenache benefits from its unique location on a high south-facing ridge between the foothills of the Pyrenees to the southwest and the sun-drenched Mediterranean coastline to the northeast. This unique dual influence brings balance and equilibrium to his wines.
Rule # 3 – People care how long you’ve been making wine
If your family has been making wine for at least two generations, you should find the most impressive way possible to convey the span of time your family has been making wine. This is true even if you’re just a nobleman who inherited a vineyard and you’ve barely met the people who tend your vines and make your wine. It might be especially true in that case.
example: Pierre’s family have been making wine for fourteen generations, showing a steadfast passion for the land.
If you haven’t been making wine for very long, emphasize your belief in a balance between old world wisdom and new technology. Characterize yourself as a fresh perspective in an old profession. This can be an excellent place to reuse the word passion.
example: Peter developed a passion for wine while watching the movie Sideways after which he left his job as a stock broker and bought a vineyard. He deeply respects the customs and traditions of the previous owner of his vines, and tries to use new techniques and a cutting edge winery to make the most authentic wines possible.
This might also be the time to name drop a famous oenologist or winemaker who you work with at the winery.
example: Peter fell in love with this vineyard shortly after watching Sideways. When consulting oenologist Marcel Dutramplon first saw the property, he said “There is no reason we cannot make great wine on this old and proven terroir.”
If this particular vineyard or project is new, but you have a pedigree in the wine business, you can actually use all of the previous techniques.
example: After 7 years of indentured servitude, Pierre has earned his freedom. His passion has driven him to strike out on his own in a daring new project where he will finally have the freedom to make his own wines with the help of renowned consulting oenologist Marcel Dutramplon.
Rule #4- Do You Parlez Franglais?
Turn off spell check! A few well-chosen errors make it seem like you’ve written about your vineyard in French and translated it to English. This allows the reader to imagine that a French wine expert has written about you and that the English language is just insufficient to fully describe your quality. Awkward word choices and mistranslated cognates remind the reader that you are an authentic French winemaker. Opaque translations of idiomatic phrases are your friend, and don’t be afraid to occasionally make up words.
exemple: The reencounter of these dual influences results in the harmonious equilibrium between the minerality and the research of power, an authentic character that Pierre looks for with a great passion to make the first wines in this old region.
Rule #5 – It’s never called dirt
If you choose to talk about the land, use technical geological terms that most people won’t understand. When speaking about dirt, never refer to it as dirt.
example: The land around the vines is composed of very stony, calcareous topsoil on top of deep marl beds.
Similarly, all climatic influences should be made more important-sounding. Use of foreign words, proper noun naming, and highly technical language can help in this field.
example: While the Vent Serraphin creates a uniquely stressed pluviometry, the vines extend their root systems deep underground to tap into the soil’s winter reserves.
Rule #6 – Other helpful words
Most of the following words and phrases should also appear throughout the wine producer info:
- south-facing slopes (if applicable)
- respect for nature
- minerality (n.b. this word is trending today, but may soon be replaced with “tension”)
- savoir faire
- gold medal
Edit inspired/contributed by Ron from nocookiecutterwines.com :
Rule #7 – Mention the exact size of your vineyard
If you are big, brag about the epic scope of your endeavor.
example: Etienne de Tarantantan took over his grandfather’s small parcel of vines in the 1970s and his passion for wine has led him to expand his holdings to own six properties throughout the region, producing over 3,000,000 bottles of quality wines each year.
If you sell to supermarkets, describe your ambitions with words like value, approachable, friendly, and unpretentious while alluding to a prestige cuvée even if you only make a couple hundred bottles of it.
example: The wines crafted by the de Tarantantan estates range from highly approachable, unpretentious wines all the way to elegant garage wines, all with a focus on value and delivering high quality to the consumer.
If you’re not big, emphasize how small you are by citing a specific number of cases produced per year. This will help consumers understand the scale of operations and creates a unique marketing position. Since you are the only small winemaker on earth.
example: Pierre toils on his two hectares of low-yield grenache all year to make just 94 cases of wine.
“I wish this website would devote a lot more space and effort to a ‘welcome to this website’ paragraph that no one will ever read instead of prominently listing their hours of operation.”
—ironic praise for bad restaurant websites, Not anyone
I criticize a lot of websites for having ugly landing pages with cheesy flash animations, loud music, and no useful information.
It’s easy to cut out the flash animation and loud music… but what constitutes useful information?
One important story that should be included in every winery website is a biographical history section. But how do you write that history? How do you convey the right information? And how much is too much?
Writing your history
People want to know about your history, but they will only remember things that are really unique and notable. You don’t need to put this information on the landing page of your website. It can be safely tucked away in a “Biography” section or “About” section.
And keep it short. You can include a manifesto hidden deep within your website, if you must. But there should be an easy to read, brief biography somewhere close to the landing page. If you have trouble keeping the bio short, visit ten other winery websites and delete anything in your history that also appears in their history.
The fact is almost all winery history sections fall into two categories “we’ve been making wine for x generations in the proud tradition of Lord Soandso of Somethingrather” or “I’m passionate about wine so I started making it y years ago and it’s been hard but worth it.” Unless you have something really special to say, this is the part of the website that people will forget ten minutes after reading it. So only say the special stuff.
And again, it doesn’t have to be on the first page. Even though you think your story is super interesting, people might be more interested in accessing basic information about your wines, where they’re available, and what food they go with. So writing a website is about balancing all this information and presenting it in a convenient way for the impatient Internet surfer.
How O’Vineyards handles it
I try to show our personality on every page of the website. The closest thing to a concrete biography is currently located in the “wines” section that talks about our winemaking. But you’ll also learn a bit about my philosophy on tourism by clicking on the “visit” section. There used to be a “Bio” section about our history, but I merged it into wine because it’s more useful there. Still debating this one internally and you might see me move it around more in the future. But it’s not very long and it’s certainly not the landing page.