Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Wine tasting in the living room – why wine-making is like writing

‘I like wine.'

That’s what Takaki Okada of Folium Vineyard says when I ask him why he’s decided to start his own vineyard in Marlborough Country.   Set amongst the vineyards of Brancott Estate and Cloudy Bay, he’s been busy making 1200 cases of wine, while around him Brancott produces thousands.

Tasting Folium wines - in Takaki Okada's living room
Takaki confesses, with a smile, that he doesn’t like Marlborough sauvignon blanc.  To him the grassy, fruity flavours that everyone knows mean the fruit is over-ripe.  So he picks his earlier and makes it in the French way.  He’s made two, the 2011 and the reserve.

We try the 2011 first – it’s delicious.  We do love the grassy Sauvignon Blancs, Brancott is our staple wine back home, but we also like the crisp dry French style as well – Sancerre being a favourite.  This was lovely and crisp and dry.  We’d have bought a bottle, but Takaki doesn’t have a cellar door yet, nor the facilities to sell wine – so he gave it to us.

The full range of Folium Wines

He also gives the reserve after we’d tasted it (lovely!).  And the pinot noir 2011 and the pinot noir reserve.  ‘I’m going away for the weekend, so I can’t drink it,’ he says.  Then we go out and he shows us his grapes.

He explains why he likes them planted closer together, why he doesn’t irrigate, why he doesn’t cover them.  And then he shows us his tractor.

As soon as we leave, he’s off to trim his vines.  He already has his working shoes on and his gloves are ready – it’s obvious that he has work to do, and there is no one else to do it.

Takaki Okada is Folium Vineyard.  He does everything himself, from tending his fruit, to making the wine, using the facilities of the nearby Fromm vineyard.  He does employ workers to pick grapes, but everything else is down to him.  But he is obviously passionate about his wine and is doing something he loves.
‘Not all the time,’ he says with a smile.

I know how he feels.  I feel the same about writing.  And, as we’ve been tasting and talking our way round wineries, I’ve seen a lot of similarities between winemaking and writing.  Winemakers tend their fruit the way we build our characters, they craft their wines the way we put our stories together but, most off all, they are passionate about what they do.

Then they have to find a distributor for their wines, by sending samples off, just like we send our work to agents.  Finding a distributor means your wines will be shown to retailers, the way our agents show our books to publishers.  It was Takaki’s distributer, Puneet Dhall, who put us in touch and set up our meeting.  It was Puneet who told us that Takaki makes ‘one of the best savs,’ the way an agent will enthuse about an author.

In wine, you have the ‘big boys’ like the Brancotts, who sell by the truck-load, or tanker-load, who are commercial and successful – there are authors like that as well. 

Winetasting at Brancott - no living rooms here
And there are winemakers like Takaki, who have small vineyards and make wine because they love it.  In writing, these would be people who had to have a full time job as well, so maybe it’s not all the same.

Or maybe I’m comparing the two, because I like nothing better than to sit and write with a glass of wine (which is what I’m doing right now . . .)

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