The Future of Wine, And How We Got Here: Viking in the Vineyard by Peter Vinding-Diers, Book Review

You know how everything that happened before you were born seems like ancient history?

I have that same feeling about events and people in the wine world that occurred before I started exploring it.

Fortunately, esteemed international winemaker Peter Vinding-Diers fills in this history, relating stories of the last half-century of wine history from his own experience, in his recent book Viking in the Vineyard – which I’m writing about now in case you missed its publication during the pandemic. And which I was inspired to read after I met him and his family recently, at their Montecarrubo winery in Sicily.

Over the course of the past 50 years, Vinding-Diers traveled and worked in influential regions on several continents, making wine and managing estates. I kind of feel like I’ve been following him around and just missing him for the last few decades, when he lived in a couple of my favorite wine regions, notably Bordeaux and Tokaji. South Africa, Chile, Brazil, Bulgaria and Italy, are some of the other areas this nearly self-taught, aristocratic Dane has lived or consulted in.

In the book, Vinding-Diers casually name-drops like crazy, though it somehow didn’t really click for me because I’d never heard of most of the aristocratic families he’s related to, along with the society he’d grown up with, and continues to move amongst. As he says about his early years: “The world was a lot smaller then.”

It wasn’t until I started reading mentions of luminaries I’d actually met in the wine business that I understood the galaxy this Viking exists in. And it was too late to resent it; I was fascinated by his journey – undertaken alongside his wife, Susie, who is probably the most petite, beautiful blonde I’ve ever encountered, and who must have amazing reserves of moral and practical courage to have traveled with him and enhanced his world all these years.

Vinding-Diers’ willingness to experiment – and work very hard, even now, in his 70s – is the key to his continued career in wine. One example of the enduring curiosity and understanding that drives him: when tasting a Chilean wine that reflected the values of former winemakers, he doesn’t denigrate an outdated world view, instead he shares his belief that “wine is many things to many people, and this particular bottle was in a world of its own.”

If you are involved in wine, you’ll also want to read about Vinding-Diers’ significant contributions to winemaking. His discoveries include the influence each vineyard’s native yeast has on a finished wine, and quantifying the timing of malolactic fermentation for different wines. He also believes that the centuries-old method of propagating grapevines by massal selection (by using cuttings from the best vines in a vineyard) could lead to a solution for grape varieties threatened by climate change, because the vines have already started to evolve in this direction on their own, in the vineyard.

After reading his book, I’m exceptionally grateful to have met Vinding-Diers, Susie, and their winemaker son Anders at Montecarrubo in southeastern Sicily this spring – and tasted several of their excellent current vintages. Now that I know a lot more about what happened in the wine world before I got here, I’m eager to follow along with Vinding-Diers into his future.

Viking in the Vineyard by Peter Vinding-Diers, Académie du Vin, 2021