Interview to Kristy Melton, Winemaker at Clos du Val Winery (CA).

Friday, 10 / July / 2015

Kristy Melton, Winemaker at Clos du Val Winery in Napa and considered one of the most relevant influences in USA has been invited by RIVERCAP to participate at the Wine Marketing Forum that has taken place recently in La Rioja.

In 2013, after three years working as the winemaker from Clos du Val Winery in Napa, the magazine Wine Enthusiast included you between the most relevant winemakers with less than 40 years old. How can a person that has studied medicine become such popular in the wine sector in US?

I believe the attention to detail that's required in medical research is also required in winemaking. The discipline thar is required to see a research project through from the start to the end is also required of making great wines. Research takes patience, a respect for nature, a creative yet fairy sterile environment and a bit of intuition and artistry to be meaningful, those were the skills I brought to my winemaking career.

You were born in Texas and you live and work in Napa (CA), an area internationally known as the birthplace of wine in US. What are the similarities and what are the differences between the wine sector in Texas, (unknown for most Europeans) and the most popular wine sector in CA?

Some of the first European grape vines to be grown in the US were located in Texas. In the 1600s, Spanish missionaries making their way along The Rio Grande river planted Mission grapes, which are believed to be a descendent or hybrid of the Spanish variety Criolla. There wasn't much commercial viability though after missions, so the vines disappeared. Only recently have people begun to bring the wine industry back to life there. The environment is completely different from Napa, as are the challenges to growing quality fruit. Most succes is found with hybrid grape varieties commonly found in Napa. But like Napa Valley, Texas has always had an agriculture-based economy. I grew up raising livestock and working in the garden as did many of my friends who were raised in Napa. I learned that people, in general, are not much different from one another in their hearts. Altough Napa and Texas are very different places -just like Napa is different from Rioja- both have lifestyles centered on the nature and that`s a lovely thing that unites us all.

Do you think the appellation "New world wine sector" which is generally used in Europe to define wine producer countries such as US, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, South Africa or Australia is correct?

I don't entirely agree with the designation because I think it can be misleading on both sides of the equation. At its inception, the designation was based largely on winemaking styles. New world wines were judged to be of a fruitier, more approachable style, of a lesser quality, made to be consumed young while Old world wines were considered classic, more complex and of higher quality. But, as the global wine industry grows and with it, the emergence of higher quality winemaking techniques in general, those lines have gotten blurred and less relevant.

In your opinion, what can the Old contintent bring to the American or Australian wine sector and what can the New world wine sector bring to countries such as Spain, France or Italy?

I think the Old world brings with it kind of respect for the winemaking tradition and the cultural inferences that have really laid the foundation for all winemaking. The New world brings with it a fresh approach, innovation and a kind of excitement about wine those in the Old world regions may have forgotten. And, like a great wine, it's all about balance.

Generally speaking, Do winemakers have social prestige and it is well-paid in US? Is it comparable to any other liberal professions such as doctors, lawyers or architects?

Once you achieve a certain level of acclaim and respect within the industry, winemakers can garner a lot of social prestige. Usually, but with some exceptions, we are not paid as well as you might believe. Certainly, not as much as a well-known doctor or lawyer. But, winemakers have a lot more fun, so I guess that is its own form of compensation.

What studies are required to become a winemaker in US?

Most winemakers have a bachelor's degree in winemaking or, in my case, a master's degree. Many have worked their way up and learned through experience, but that is becoming more rare as competition for good winemaking roles within the sector has increased.

Is there any type od professional association for the winemakers in CA or US?

There are a large number of proffesional organizations available, far too many to list here. The most widely know is the American Society of Viticulture and Enology. But most organizations are more regionally based with a specific focus. Some in my area include Napa Valley Vintners, Napa Valley Wine Technical Group, California Enological Research Association, and Women for Winesence.

As a professional winemaker, what do you think about Spanish wines compared to French, Portuguese or Italian wines?

I think each country has a great history and tradition of winemaking unique to its culture. It's really difficult to generalize when the diversity of the wines available within each country is so vast, before even comparing them to their neighbours. Quality is found in all those countries, as are distinct elements of the regional philosophies and practices. The one thing I can say for certain is that I love Spanish wines -from every region and every variety-. They are vibrant, unique, high quality and exceptional values.

How are, Spanish wineries and wines, perceived by big wine enthusiasts in the US?

I think Spanish wines have always afforded enthusiasts with a palate of amazing choices and experiences. Spanish wines have always been seen as a great value, so you can try many different wines from regions and producers all over without going broke. The reds are praised for their concentration, depth, and ability to pair with a number of different foods and the whites are seen as bright and freshing and perfect on warm days.

Source: Magazine "Enólogos"



SPARFLEX acquires 100% stake in RIVERCAP

Add comment

* - required field


CAPTCHA image for SPAM prevention
If you can't read the word, click here.