The Slow Wine project was born eight years ago when Slow Food, the international foodways movement, decided to publish its own guide and break away from the Gambero Rosso and its Vini d’Italia (Wines of Italy), which the two groups had co-published for 25 years. At the time, it was Italy’s most important wine guide.
Our editors had come to the conclusion that the Gambero Rosso guide no longer aligned with the Slow Food mission: We wanted to create a guide that would not only describe the wines but also tell the stories behind the wineries themselves. The idea was to focus not only on tasting notes. Instead, the goal was to give greater weight and importance to the estates’ production methods: How do they grow their grapes and how do they vinify their wines? It would be a totally new type of guide, something that everyone could be proud of.
In just eight short years, Slow Wine has become Italy’s most popular wine guide, with more than 40,000 copies printed and sold. And the response has inspired us to head down roads previously untraveled. First off, we decided to share Slow Wine with the world by organizing numerous tastings in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. At every event, it seemed like the public’s interest for this new form of wine criticism was wholly palpable.
At the time, Slow Wine was the only guide in Italy (and possibly the world) that visited the wineries. And the winemakers seemed to be thrilled by this fact. Finally, they didn’t just send in their samples. But they themselves had stepped into the starring roles. Even our readers seemed to appreciate our efforts because they could now clearly see that wine tasting wasn’t the only important thing we were doing.
In 2016, we decided to open up our guide to our neighbor Slovenia, a small country that shares a border and viticultural traditions with Italy. And in 2017, we expanded our coverage and our horizons when we turned to one of the region that we love and admire most in the world of wine: California, land of great wines and home to a viticultural movement that sparkles even more brightly as it evolves.
We were determined to offer readers a well-honed selection and I’ll leave it to my colleagues to explain how we chose the wineries we would visit. We believe that publishing yet another copied-and-pasted guide or magazine would be of use to no one. Nor would it serve to fulfill the ideals espoused by Slow Food. Since its inception, the movement’s priority has been that of championing respect for the environment and foods and wines that reflect the place where they are produced.
To this end, we created a sort of Ten Commandments that we will be publishing shortly. It’s a first draft of what will become the Slow Food International manifesto on wine.
Lastly, I’d like to share a couple of notes on our working method. If you are reading this introduction, you already know that Slow Wine contributors love nothing more than locking themselves up in a room with thousands and thousands of wines to sniff, swirl, and spit.
But we also see our mission as a different one. Our only judge is the reader. We’re not trying to woo a rising-star winemaker by flattering her/him with praise and making her/him the envy of a neighbor. We’re not trying to get more likes and friends on Facebook. We want to provide readers with a service that is as objective as possible.
There are three fundamental questions that we need to ask ourselves when we tell a winery’s story: Does our work offer relevant information in choosing one bottle of wine over another? Is our approach the best that it could be? Is the narrative reflective of the winery’s history and its relationship to its appellation?
It’s no easy task to answer these questions with our winery profiles and our working method. But this is our goal.
In order to fulfill our mission, we brought together a small but seasoned group that help achieve our vision: Jeremy Parzen, who had already been working for some time with Slow Food and the Slow Food university UniSG (University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Piedmont); David Lynch and Elaine Brown, two wine professionals I admire greatly; and two ex-UniSG students, Elizabeth Sievers-Fiorello and Nick Phelps, who rounded out our team.
As we’ve tenaciously moved forward with this new pioneering project, we’ve come to think of ourselves as a Don Quixote of wine criticism. By no means do we believe that ours is a better wine guide than any other. But just like the Man from La Mancha, we have followed our code and we’ve never strayed from the working method that we developed year after year, profile after profile, winery visit after winery visit. In the end, this is what has made our work so enjoyable and rewarding. We hope you will find our efforts — our desire to share the world of wine through a “political vision” — as enjoyable and compelling as we do. Now it’s time to chase some windmills: Our journey has just begun!
Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California