It is difficult to really talk in depth about wine without discussing the wine’s terroir. Most wine drinkers either do not pay much attention to a wine’s terroir, or they do not know anything about terroir. I am afraid I am a little guilty of not paying attention to it myself.
In today’s blog we are going to take a look at what terroir is, how it affects the taste of wine and what are the different types of terroir. Then, in next week’s blog, we will discuss the differences in terroir between my three favorite wine regions: Napa Valley, California, and Burgundy and Bordeaux, France.
Before we go much further, let us define the word terroir. Terroir (ter-wär) is a French word derived from the Latin word “terra” meaning earth or land. It is used to define a wine’s place or environment. Terroir is divided into four distinct areas. They are:
Almost all wine regions can be divided into two distinct climates: either cool or warm. Each has an affect on wine grapes. Grapes grown in warm climates typically have higher sugar levels, which produce higher alcohol levels in the wine. Wines from cooler climates have lower sugar levels which generally means lower alcohol levels. These wines also generally retain more acidity.
There are hundreds of types of soil, rock and mineral deposits throughout the world’s vineyards. But actually, only five to six different types of soil affect the flavor of wine. There is no scientific proof that the “minerality” taste in wines is actually linked to the minerals in a wine.
Traditional winemaking and vineyard growing techniques can contribute a lot to a wine’s terroir. Ancient winemakers’ methods tended to be highly dependent on their region’s climate, soil and terrain. These methods continue in today’s winemaking.
Altitude is an increasingly important factor and contributor in creating quality vineyards. Besides elevation, other important factors are geological factors such as mountains, valleys, being located far inland, which side of the mountain the vineyard is located on, what other vegetation and trees are nearby as well as if large bodies of water are close. All of these factors affect how a wine from a particular region will taste.
Some areas are better than others to grown vines. Vines do not always grow well in wet regions. They grow in cold climates but at times the grapes fail to ripen properly. It is said grapes produce the best quality wine when the vines are grown in less fertile soil. The best terroirs are ones with poor soil on well-drained hillsides where there isn’t a lot of excess water and the vines enjoy good sunlight in order for the fruit to ripen effectively. The best wines seem to come from vines that are grown on a hillside in gravelly, sandy or stony soil.
The basic requirements for good vines: sunlight, moderate rainfall and moderate temperatures between 50 and 80 degrees. Globally the best areas for vineyards are generally between 35-degrees and 50-degrees altitude, north or south.
Oliver Poussier (voted the best sommelier in the world in 2000) offers the following opinion on terroir: “A great wine is a combination of complexity, finesse, balance and persistence, which give enormous pleasure to those who taste it. With time, its flavor and aromas should improve. The fullness of its expression comes more from its terroir than from the grape variety or the year in which it was grown. There can be no great wine without a man who, through an intimate understanding of the terroir, knows how to reveal its very quintessence.”
In the opinion of Michel Rolland, (an oenologist from Bordeaux) who offers wine advice throughout the world (to a number of Napa wineries as well): “A great wine is the sum of a number of factors, the most important being the terroir, which gives the wine its character. Man is the vital, indispensable link in the process by which a wine’s qualities are revealed, through his constant work in the vineyards and wineries adapted to their conditions and circumstance. The age of the vineyard, its balance and yield are also important.”
I hope you stay tuned for the second part of this series on terroir next week.
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Upcoming LEX 530 Events!
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – Partnering with Artisian at LEX 530
Oktoberfest Dinner – Tuesday, September 22, 2020 – with Elkhart’s Iechyd Da Brewing Company
Artisian Wine Dinner in Partnership with LEX 530 – Wednesday, October 7, 2020 – held at Artisan
Special Guest Winemaker Wine Dinner – Friday, October 23, 2020
LEX 530 Wine & Dinner Club Dinner – Friday, November 20, 2020
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August 18 – International Pinot Noir Day
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December 20 – National Sangria Day
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