Providence - What I thought in New Zealand about the development of wine making - Lecture by Usuke Asai, Japan

Providence and James Vuletic lost a great friend when dedicated wine educator Usuke Asai died in Japan. We include his thoughts on Providence in honor of his memory. 

Mr Asai visited Providence a few days after harvest had ended to observe and understand our winemaking practices. Some of his observations surprised him, including the highly successful use of traditional wine making practices employed at Providence. 

“It would seem Jim’s wine making does not take in to consideration the microbes in nature, from the time he puts grapes in to vats after crushing to the time he decides “O.K, now it’s time to transfer to barrels.” It is all about punching down earnestly and cleaning around the vats thoroughly. In a manner of speaking, the necessary scientific management like stopping microbes by adding SO2 or inoculating with selected superior yeasts does not exist here. No matter how high the fermentation temperature goes up lassies faire. If it was the dry commercial yeast used worldwide, it would stop the fermentation. I wonder if it is not the strength of natural fermentation that prevents any problems. 

That punching down which seemed too violent and the fermentation seemed abnormal to me, must be connected deeply to the methods before modern times, like no addition of SO2 and natural fermentation. However, for them to bring big success to Providence something more fundamental must exist. Probably it is the big potential that exists in the grapes themselves. You cannot pinpoint anything claiming this is the secret of Jim Vuletic’s wine making. But the whole process is in harmony. After observing his work, I wonder if wine making, which is supposed to have progressed by the remarkable development of scientific technology, goes beyond the quintessential of pre-modern winemaking? 

After the tour of the major producing areas recommended by Jim, we went back to the humble winery in Matakana and I had a sudden realisation. The grapes, which are often buried in state of the art equipment, become wine in your own hands here. This is far more important than the efficiency of the facility. 

As I was shooting nails in to the wooden boxes of the newly released wine, I thought working like this in New Zealand might be the real development in winemaking.”