Terroir?!?

How should ‘terroir’ be defined in new world winemaking terminology? This is something that really has not been discussed much.

We historically talk about place, about microclimates and soils and temperature, about clonal materials used.

What about ‘winemaker intervention’ right from the get go?

Let me give you an example. When fruit comes in to many new world producers, the first thing that’s done is to sort the fruit. This is oftentimes done in a couple of stages. In its ‘simplest’ form, clusters are sorted on a sorting table and ‘underripe’ or ‘damaged’ clusters are discarded, along with MOG (materials other than grapes, including leaves, bugs, etc.). In many cases, a second stage is set up where the clusters are then destemmed and the grapes are looked up, and ‘imperfect’ ones are tossed. In the extremest of circumstances, and now showing up more an more in CA, optical sorting machines are set up to discard anything other than ‘perfect’ berries.

Many wine consumers yearn for yesteryear. They yearn for a time when grapes were picked at lower sugar levels, when natural acid levels were higher, and wines were not ‘over the top’. Guess what – there were no optical scanners then. There were not vibrating sorting tables then. Yes, perhaps some wineries hand sorted their clusters as they came in, but my guess is that many did not. And the wines turned out okay.

Just something to think about today. ‘Perfection’ is unattainable in our industry, as it is in almost everything in life. And I believe it’s our job to enjoy the ‘perfect imperfections’ in life that make things real, attainable, and enjoyable.

Cheers . . .

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