Terroir? And Its Wine …….
Terroir means climate, soil, more generally all the environment where the wine grapes are grown and is reflected in the characteristics of the wine as a result. Or at least, it should be.
Because each individual wine must tell its own individual story and have its very own identity.
A wine’s identity is comprised of many characteristics including color, aromas, flavors, textures…etc.
These characteristics are influenced by the terroir first, but also the wine maker most of the time influences the characteristics of the wine, for the sake of ratings.
A thin-skinned grape like Pinot Noir tends to take on the characteristics of its terroir quite easily, so it would be best for a winemaker not to tamper with the wine and mask the characteristics that make the wine an individual.
Cooler climate will be reflected in a Pinot Noir from Burgundy or Willamette Valley, these will have notes of bright cherry, cranberry, strawberry, raspberry, red plum, perhaps some floral or herbal notes, as well as “earth” notes reflecting the terroir of these locations.
The Chardonnay grape itself shows characteristics of lemon and apple and sometimes other fruits as well, and in a place like Chablis, the earth notes will reflect chalky soil.
Warmer climate will influence the ripeness levels to rise, making somewhat more concentrated wine characteristics.
In a place like Napa, often the style is different with much more rich fruit – also heavy use of new oak (man-made) will generally make the wine appear caramelized and very rich, and the mineral notes will not be able to show through.
It is so important that a grape grower, winemaker, and even the consumer respect the grape’s identity, and in doing so, keep the fruit characteristics and terroir intact, and acknowledge and appreciate them. But most of them for economic reasons try to make wines to please critics more than respecting their true characteristics. This is sad.
What I mean by that is if I buy Italian, it is because I want to drink and find Italian characteristics in the wines and not find South African ones.
Why would I buy a specific wine to try to find something else??
At that point, if I want a South African wine, I will buy a South African and not Italian… and there are plenty of choices.
But how do we know that what we are tasting is actually true to form, in that the pure characteristics of the grape itself and those of its terroir are being expressed? The best way to know, is by tasting continuously. We need to keep on experiencing as many examples of grapes and growing regions as we can. These experiences permit us to draw comparisons between wines in terms of quality. We can learn more about the wines themselves, including their grapes and regions, and we can educate ourselves as to which wines are the best at expressing themselves, indicating good quality and purity.
Reading is a great asset to the learning process, but the real learning is to taste it. And when I say taste, I mean drinking and trying all type of wines. Your palate and time of tasting experience will give you a maturity based on all the wines being compared.
And that is the secret of learning wines.