One of my favourite songs by the Rolling Stones a decade or few ago. It actually has nothing to do with wine, except for the second verse, but do create a slight bitterness on my palate I guess when it comes to general service levels in some countries, and certainly some products.

Have we grown used to the fact that we are expecting too much from service and product suppliers? Or are we a bit gullible in the sense that when it comes to winemaking, we assume that grapes, juice and wine can just about absorb all abuse, bad product, misfits and misfortunes that come its way? Do we get payback from some suppliers because their products are mediocre and do not speak for themselves?

Is this perhaps too much controversial a topic?

In a market over supplied by universities and colleges, is this not the perfect time to demand products and service that not only “works” for a specific purpose, but also delivers on what it is promoted to do? It seems like everyone but producers are benefitting profusely and consistently from the wine industry, yet if you talk to winemakers there are always interesting stories to listen to…

Like the time Jack had to stop the bottling line because the corks gave off such a residue that it might drop into the wine. Like the time Pete ordered a large quantity of barrels from a cooperage and he then received barrels that caused his only batch of Shiraz to taste green…apparently not green oak, but green fruit (at over 15% alcohol…). Or the time Steve called upon the barrel cleaners who opened up the barrels and the only thing consistent about the cooperage was the amount of blisters in the barrel. Or Jack’s wine who’s calsium content in press wines dropped when he used a different supplier of diatomaceous earth and bentonite. Or Steven’s red wine which had significant problems with colour instability, but it changed when he used different extraction enzymes. Or Marie’s alcohol was supposed to be reduced with 0.5%, and she ended up with a wine of which the alcohol was reduced by 1.2%. Or sweetened wine was cross flowed the morning and transported to William’s cellar and ended up in a tank with a clarity of 1.6 NTU’s and 2 million yeast cells per millilitre.

Like John…

And Bartho…

Or I had a conversation with a person a while ago who promised me TCA free corks because they hand select their corks…

I am sure there are wonderful stories to be told by many winemakers. Perhaps a few thoughts from my side in preventing disasters in your wine:

It is sometimes better to know what not to do then what to do.

- Trial the product several times before you make a decision.

- Go back to oenological basics – we have to commit science sometimes.

- Never trust cocktails or quick fix solutions (how did you end up here anyway?)

- Always ask for scientific trials on the product (here it also helps a lot if the article provide insight into repeatability,  statistics that make sense,  i.e. where figures are not manipulated so that insignificant statistical differences may be interpreted otherwise, and ultimately accredited journals, and not The Horse and Hound…).

- Always ask for a reference list of people who use the product or service.

- Always ask them how much money the mother company spend on research and development.

In the end I wonder how many of the suppliers will guarantee money back if their product does not work. I have grown to realise the product is never wrong, only the conditions were.

It is time we get what we want, and certainly what we pay for!

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.