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The practical art of connecting the human soul
to the soul of a place
by rendering its grapes into liquid music.

The Postmodern movement is an ongoing evolution and synthesis of the work of dozens of winemakers and researchers all over the world in the last two decades. Its purpose is to examine what was left behind in the modern enological revolution of the 20th Century during which the advent of electricity, stainless steel, refrigeration, sterile filtration and a host of other technologies utterly altered the way wine is made and even our underlying assumptions of what wine is..

Postmodern winemaking is extremely diverse. No group exists to advocate any particular winemaking formula or practice. The discussion exists to create and explore models which can aid winemakers generally in projecting the consequences of their choices and acquiring useful skills.

Examples of postmodern inquiry include:

1. Wine’s sensory properties have been found not to arise from the composition of a simple alcohol/water solution. Wine has complex structures which influence its appearance, aroma, taste and texture. Winemaking choices affecting these structures influence body, tannin softness, aromatic complexity and balance, longevity and stability. Structure is influences by winemaking choices in critical areas including vine balance, ripeness, extraction strategies, exposure to oxygen, lees and oak, ageing regimen, fining, filtration and bottle closure choice.

2. These elements also affect the wine’s anti-oxidative power (reductive strength). Good vine balance, living soil practices, intermediate harvest ripeness, good extraction, the homeopathic properties of early oxygen exposure, and closure choices can all increase the wine’s longevity but simultaneously can lead to closed and even stinky wines in youth. Balancing reductive energy becomes a key element of winemaking management.

3. Since the structural colloids may approach in size the diameter of a bacterial cell, stabilization practices such as chill-proofing and sterile filtration may disrupt the positive properties of structured wines, particularly reds. Alternative methods to these procedures such as electrodialysis and Velcorin injection are under investigation. Ideally for many winemakers, however, the bottling of wines which have achieved microbial equilibrium in the cellar and are inherently stable would emulate the winemaking of our first 7,000 years.

4. Belief is growing that the promotion of living soil practices through sustainable, organic, and/or biodynamic viticulture may contribute to the wine’s flavor depth, soulfulness, distinctive terroir expression, minerality and stability during ageing. Environmental custodianship is a sufficient justification, but we are in the business of making great wine. If a living web of soil organisms produces balanced, healthy vines that develop grapes with balanced nutrients, aromatic expression, flavor depth, and increased reductive energy, we need to investigate how best to utilize these resources in building structure and achieving microbial balance.

Clark Smith's Postmodern Winemaking Conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

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