Richard Powers won the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for The Overstory, a novel about trees, how they grow and how people grow with or without them. He built the book around an entire forest of characters, constructing it out of their root systems and overstories as they came together, networked and blew apart. Perhaps, if such a book can win a Pulitzer, this year may be a tipping point in people’s relationships with plants.
We’ve certainly seen a transition, in the last decade, toward plant-conscious viticulture going mainstream—with more scientists focusing brainpower on the mycorrhizal networks and microbes in the soil that foster the vines, and more battles against products that kill them off.
Microbes are now fêted in wine bars from Williamsburg to Oakland. And though we don’t always appreciate the results of no-sulfur, hands-o winemaking, we do appreciate the carefully farmed, clean, low-intervention wines that are increasingly present in the market today.
This year, we changed our tastings policy in hopes of zeroing in on that latter sort of wine. We still open our tastings to any and all submissions, to align with our goal of discovering new wines for readers. But we found that we were navigating through so many wines—including many dull, fruity, heavily processed bottlings—that it had become a challenge to see the forest through the trees. So, we created a calendar of focus tastings, where we go deep into a category, be it a grape variety or specific region; for any wines that fall outside the issue’s designated themes, we instituted a small submission fee. The idea was to cut down on the noise by encouraging importers and vintners to send in only the wines they truly believe are worthy of close attention.
This issue shows how well the new plan has worked. In the last 12 months, we tasted through 11,500 wines—4,000 less than 2018—but we recommended nearly half of them, a significantly higher percentage than ever before. Clearly, the new approach has excited our tasting panels. It has also provided one of the most exciting Buying Guides in years, with a collection of 100 astonishing wines, another 100 extraordinary values and a diverse range of wineries that earned Top 100 awards for their performances overall.
Fruit is fruit. Wine is transformation. It’s been a transformative year for us at Wine & Spirits, encouraged by the great wines in the pages of this issue.
Wishing you a year of transformative wine,
photo by Anne Rutledge
This story appears in the print issue of .
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