Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

Tasting notes, varietals, grapes - anything related to wine
Message
Author
R. Frankel
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 1578
Joined: January 24th, 2014, 11:07 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#51 Post by R. Frankel » December 21st, 2018, 11:09 pm

Jim Anderson wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 9:21 pm
I have a belief that what I see, touch, smell and taste inform me at a level that I believe I can rightfully, honestly and with all manner of integrity communicate to people interested enough to hear what I have to say about my wines as they experience them.
Thanks for the contribution Jim. This sentence especially resonated with me, maybe because I have some of your Freedom Hill wines napping in my cellar.
Rich Frankel

User avatar
Claus Jeppesen
Posts: 1615
Joined: April 27th, 2010, 2:42 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#52 Post by Claus Jeppesen » December 21st, 2018, 11:59 pm

It's quite simple
Don't trust the palates of those who do not believe in terroir
Claus

Riesling and Slate

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#53 Post by Wes Barton » December 22nd, 2018, 12:42 am

John Morris wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 9:47 am
Is there any evidence that the garrique in the south of France really does impart its aromas?
Yes. Other compounds make their way into the grape tissue that same way as smoke taint (guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol) and eucalyptol. One of the native shrubs here is apparently responsible for a signature smell in Santa Cruz Mountains wines.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Yup....

#54 Post by Wes Barton » December 22nd, 2018, 1:22 am

TomHill wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 8:33 am
Yup, John. Agree. In the last paragraph, he refers to the unknown effects of the microbiology in the soil and much more research on that being needed.
No, importantly, and I'm sure purposefully, he says "in the vineyard" rather than "in the soil".

Alan posted above about the importance of a healthy soil web. I'll add there were some studies a few years ago showing how microbial life on the grape skin interacts with and changes compounds in the grapes, which are expressed in the resulting wines. Older studies show the transitory nature of microbial life on a grape, which makes sense. It's a changing ecosystem, so what can thrive and compete there changes as the grapes ripen.

The article discusses nutrients necessary for vine growth. But, the make up of the grapes is much more complex than the woody tissue of the vines. That's where the variations are. Tha's what you can look and measure variations from one site to another. Some compounds will remain as is in the resultant wine, many are precursors that will be transformed by the yeast, then there are the nutrients that enable the yeasts, transformed or utilized themselves. Importantly, that includes micronutrients, which are harder to study.

Soil specifics are crucial to what microbial ecosystem can exist in it. It wouldn't be surprising to me would be finding some microbe crucial to a specific terroir trait only able to exist in a certain type of soil.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

Oliver McCrum
Posts: 1781
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 11:11 am
Location: Oakland, CA; Cigliè, Piedmont

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#55 Post by Oliver McCrum » December 22nd, 2018, 10:49 am

Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 12:42 am
John Morris wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 9:47 am
Is there any evidence that the garrique in the south of France really does impart its aromas?
Yes. Other compounds make their way into the grape tissue that same way as smoke taint (guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol) and eucalyptol. One of the native shrubs here is apparently responsible for a signature smell in Santa Cruz Mountains wines.
I am sure this is true. If you walk through the brush around vineyards in Mediterranean areas you will find that many of the plants there are wild herbs; in effect you have a wild Herbes de Provence mixture growing all around the vineyard, so it's not surprising that the wines end up with a background of those flavors.
Oliver McCrum
Oliver McCrum Wines

User avatar
John Morris
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 16306
Joined: June 21st, 2009, 2:09 pm
Location: Gotham

Re: Yup....

#56 Post by John Morris » December 22nd, 2018, 11:01 am

Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 1:22 am
TomHill wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 8:33 am
Yup, John. Agree. In the last paragraph, he refers to the unknown effects of the microbiology in the soil and much more research on that being needed.
No, importantly, and I'm sure purposefully, he says "in the vineyard" rather than "in the soil".

Alan posted above about the importance of a healthy soil web. I'll add there were some studies a few years ago showing how microbial life on the grape skin interacts with and changes compounds in the grapes, which are expressed in the resulting wines. Older studies show the transitory nature of microbial life on a grape, which makes sense. It's a changing ecosystem, so what can thrive and compete there changes as the grapes ripen.

The article discusses nutrients necessary for vine growth. But, the make up of the grapes is much more complex than the woody tissue of the vines. That's where the variations are. Tha's what you can look and measure variations from one site to another. Some compounds will remain as is in the resultant wine, many are precursors that will be transformed by the yeast, then there are the nutrients that enable the yeasts, transformed or utilized themselves. Importantly, that includes micronutrients, which are harder to study.

Soil specifics are crucial to what microbial ecosystem can exist in it. It wouldn't be surprising to me would be finding some microbe crucial to a specific terroir trait only able to exist in a certain type of soil.
Thanks for that, Wes.

This sounds consistent with biodynamic principles. Whatever you think of the more occult aspects of hardcore biodynamism (personally, I'm a hardcore skeptic and empiricist), a core part of the practice in maintaining natural and healthy soils.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

User avatar
John Morris
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 16306
Joined: June 21st, 2009, 2:09 pm
Location: Gotham

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#57 Post by John Morris » December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am

Oliver McCrum wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 10:49 am
Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 12:42 am
John Morris wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 9:47 am
Is there any evidence that the garrique in the south of France really does impart its aromas?
Yes. Other compounds make their way into the grape tissue that same way as smoke taint (guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol) and eucalyptol. One of the native shrubs here is apparently responsible for a signature smell in Santa Cruz Mountains wines.
I am sure this is true. If you walk through the brush around vineyards in Mediterranean areas you will find that many of the plants there are wild herbs; in effect you have a wild Herbes de Provence mixture growing all around the vineyard, so it's not surprising that the wines end up with a background of those flavors.
It would be nice think that wasn't just romantic blather by writers captivated by the south of France.

I'd forgotten about smoke taint -- another great example.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Yup....

#58 Post by Wes Barton » December 22nd, 2018, 2:59 pm

John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:01 am
This sounds consistent with biodynamic principles. Whatever you think of the more occult aspects of hardcore biodynamism (personally, I'm a hardcore skeptic and empiricist), a core part of the practice in maintaining natural and healthy soils.
I visited with a biodynamic practitioner who is at the cutting edge of dynamic, yet pragmatic vineyard practices. Until recently, the norm was a HUGE knowledge gap between organic farming and vineyard practices. Well understood concepts didn't register with grape growers. I'd been impressed by others, but this was a different level. *And*, by odd happenstance I was accompanied by a veteran organic farmer. So, innovative training solutions, tailored to the needs of a block, plants around the vineyard to attract beneficial insects, etc. Their opinion of biodynamics is it's a compilation of time-proven traditional practices with a layer of bullshit on top. It's easy to ignore the bullshit.

An inherent advantage of biodynamic over organic is it's too easy to be a mindless twit with organic. People buy certain products and go down a checklist and that's that. And, some bad practices are allowed under organic certification. Biodynamics seems to force people to think and pay more attention. (Still, certification seems like a sophomoric exercise.)
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

User avatar
John Morris
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 16306
Joined: June 21st, 2009, 2:09 pm
Location: Gotham

Re: Yup....

#59 Post by John Morris » December 22nd, 2018, 3:42 pm

Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 2:59 pm

I visited with a biodynamic practitioner who is at the cutting edge of dynamic, yet pragmatic vineyard practices. Until recently, the norm was a HUGE knowledge gap between organic farming and vineyard practices. Well understood concepts didn't register with grape growers. I'd been impressed by others, but this was a different level. *And*, by odd happenstance I was accompanied by a veteran organic farmer. So, innovative training solutions, tailored to the needs of a block, plants around the vineyard to attract beneficial insects, etc. Their opinion of biodynamics is it's a compilation of time-proven traditional practices with a layer of bullshit on top. It's easy to ignore the bullshit.
Can you give examples for the first bolded part? And the gap exists among what group? I'm curious.

As for the last thing you said, it's also easy for many to dismiss the time-proven practices because of the BS!
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

User avatar
D.Callahan
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 458
Joined: January 19th, 2010, 12:27 am
Location: Trabuco Canyon, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#60 Post by D.Callahan » December 22nd, 2018, 4:35 pm

John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am


I'd forgotten about smoke taint -- another great example.
It is my understanding that "smoke taint" is caused be particles on the grape skins themselves...right?
Dennis Callahan

Jonathan Loesberg
Posts: 1644
Joined: April 27th, 2010, 5:59 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#61 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » December 22nd, 2018, 11:41 pm

John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am
Oliver McCrum wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 10:49 am
Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 12:42 am


Yes. Other compounds make their way into the grape tissue that same way as smoke taint (guaiacol and 4-methylguaiacol) and eucalyptol. One of the native shrubs here is apparently responsible for a signature smell in Santa Cruz Mountains wines.
I am sure this is true. If you walk through the brush around vineyards in Mediterranean areas you will find that many of the plants there are wild herbs; in effect you have a wild Herbes de Provence mixture growing all around the vineyard, so it's not surprising that the wines end up with a background of those flavors.
It's true that scrub land in Provence does grow wild rosemary and thyme (not so much lavender, or other ingredients in herbes de provence, though). And it's true that lots of vineyards grow on what was once scrub land. But the perfume of herbes de provence in the air here largely comes from how common these herbs are in gardens all over. Very few vineyards are planted within a quarter of a mile of the nearest rosemary bush and all the ones on rocky soil probably haven't been anywhere near them. There is a spiciness to Southern Rhone wines that can aptly be described metaphorically as garrigue (I certainly do so), but I truly doubt that it comes from herbs in the soil the vines are growing on.

Steve Slatcher
Posts: 238
Joined: July 24th, 2010, 2:17 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#62 Post by Steve Slatcher » December 23rd, 2018, 9:03 am

Alan Rath wrote:
December 21st, 2018, 11:13 am
The well-known eucalyptus note on Martha's is no mystery (at least it seems to me). When you have eucalyptus groves nearby a vineyard, their oils are bound to land on the grapes, and go straight into the fermenter.
True.

But more important are eucalyptus leaves and other bits of tree that get harvested with the grapes. Especially so if machine harvested, but even if picked by hand eucalyptus MOG can get entangled in the grape bunches.

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Yup....

#63 Post by Wes Barton » December 23rd, 2018, 1:31 pm

John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 3:42 pm
Wes Barton wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 2:59 pm

I visited with a biodynamic practitioner who is at the cutting edge of dynamic, yet pragmatic vineyard practices. Until recently, the norm was a HUGE knowledge gap between organic farming and vineyard practices. Well understood concepts didn't register with grape growers. I'd been impressed by others, but this was a different level. *And*, by odd happenstance I was accompanied by a veteran organic farmer. So, innovative training solutions, tailored to the needs of a block, plants around the vineyard to attract beneficial insects, etc. Their opinion of biodynamics is it's a compilation of time-proven traditional practices with a layer of bullshit on top. It's easy to ignore the bullshit.
Can you give examples for the first bolded part? And the gap exists among what group? I'm curious.

As for the last thing you said, it's also easy for many to dismiss the time-proven practices because of the BS!
I'm talking my own experience talking to people and reading, forum discussions, etc. Material from Ecology Action. Online international tomato-focused community with some of the world's big players (which spawned the creation of Tomatoville). It's anecdotal, but I've been talking with prominent people for a long time. The knowledge gap worked both ways, btw. For a long time some pretty basic concepts about soil health were always met with crickets with grape growers. In wine, that knowledge is coming here from France. Talking to tomato growers about the importance of soil characteristics in the resulting flavors was met with disbelief. (My own experience showed some varieties hyper-sensitive to soil type, while many others weren't.)

I didn't get the impression they were trying to be biodynamic, per se. More that their exploration and experiments took them to the point where they happened to be biodynamic, other than the BS stuff. Their own research, independently looking at traditional practices in various regions lead to that conclusion.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#64 Post by Wes Barton » December 23rd, 2018, 1:37 pm

D.Callahan wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 4:35 pm
John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am


I'd forgotten about smoke taint -- another great example.
It is my understanding that "smoke taint" is caused be particles on the grape skins themselves...right?
No. It's drawn into the plant tissue via the waxy cuticle.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

Oliver McCrum
Posts: 1781
Joined: August 5th, 2010, 11:11 am
Location: Oakland, CA; Cigliè, Piedmont

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#65 Post by Oliver McCrum » December 24th, 2018, 9:34 am

Jonathan Loesberg wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:41 pm
John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am
Oliver McCrum wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 10:49 am


I am sure this is true. If you walk through the brush around vineyards in Mediterranean areas you will find that many of the plants there are wild herbs; in effect you have a wild Herbes de Provence mixture growing all around the vineyard, so it's not surprising that the wines end up with a background of those flavors.
It's true that scrub land in Provence does grow wild rosemary and thyme (not so much lavender, or other ingredients in herbes de provence, though). And it's true that lots of vineyards grow on what was once scrub land. But the perfume of herbes de provence in the air here largely comes from how common these herbs are in gardens all over. Very few vineyards are planted within a quarter of a mile of the nearest rosemary bush and all the ones on rocky soil probably haven't been anywhere near them. There is a spiciness to Southern Rhone wines that can aptly be described metaphorically as garrigue (I certainly do so), but I truly doubt that it comes from herbs in the soil the vines are growing on.
Jonathan,

I'm talking about vineyards I've walked in Liguria (just east of the French border) and in coastal Sardinia; in both cases the scrub right outside of the vineyard was composed of largely aromatic wild plants. The simplest explanation is surely that the oils from these plants get onto the bunches.
Oliver McCrum
Oliver McCrum Wines

TomHill
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 8994
Joined: July 28th, 2009, 9:21 am
Location: LosAlamos, NM

Yup....

#66 Post by TomHill » December 24th, 2018, 9:50 am

Oliver McCrum wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 9:34 am
Jonathan Loesberg wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:41 pm
John Morris wrote:
December 22nd, 2018, 11:02 am
It's true that scrub land in Provence does grow wild rosemary and thyme (not so much lavender, or other ingredients in herbes de provence, though). And it's true that lots of vineyards grow on what was once scrub land. But the perfume of herbes de provence in the air here largely comes from how common these herbs are in gardens all over. Very few vineyards are planted within a quarter of a mile of the nearest rosemary bush and all the ones on rocky soil probably haven't been anywhere near them. There is a spiciness to Southern Rhone wines that can aptly be described metaphorically as garrigue (I certainly do so), but I truly doubt that it comes from herbs in the soil the vines are growing on.
Jonathan,

I'm talking about vineyards I've walked in Liguria (just east of the French border) and in coastal Sardinia; in both cases the scrub right outside of the vineyard was composed of largely aromatic wild plants. The simplest explanation is surely that the oils from these plants get onto the bunches.
Yup....Paola d'Andrea's vnyd down in Deming,NM is surrounded by sagebrush & chamisa. Both loft oils into the air
that settles on the grapes, giving many (not all) wines from his vnyd a distinct sagebrush/chamisa aroma.
Tom

Brandon J.
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 327
Joined: October 26th, 2015, 11:13 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#67 Post by Brandon J. » December 24th, 2018, 10:06 am

Fascinating.

There's a Guild Somm podcast episode on this very thing that was very informative and covered similar topics. At first I was almost angry at the notion that soil types doesn't matter but as I thought about it more, it just makes things even more interesting to me. That means it's not that simple. As Jim pointed out, there IS a difference, and the science as to why there's a difference isn't mature enough to really explain it. Over the years I've talked to a few biochemical engineers who are in the business and they always comment that while the soil type itself doesn't ever effect the wine's flavor/outcome but drives the plant to do different things. Take and abstain from nutrients at different times due to a myriad of reasons.

We need a serious Design of Experiments done on Jim's cellar!
John sen

Jonathan Loesberg
Posts: 1644
Joined: April 27th, 2010, 5:59 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#68 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » December 24th, 2018, 10:39 am

I cede to your knowledge of Liguria, about which I know nothing. I was speaking about the Southern Rhone.

Jonathan Loesberg
Posts: 1644
Joined: April 27th, 2010, 5:59 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#69 Post by Jonathan Loesberg » December 24th, 2018, 10:45 am

Oliver McCrum wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 9:34 am

Jonathan,

I'm talking about vineyards I've walked in Liguria (just east of the French border) and in coastal Sardinia; in both cases the scrub right outside of the vineyard was composed of largely aromatic wild plants. The simplest explanation is surely that the oils from these plants get onto the bunches.
I cede to your knowledge of Liguria, about which I know nothing. I was speaking about the Southern Rhone, about which most people speak when they refer to the taste of garrigue. It might also be true of the Luberon, where much more forest land still exists, but I am also not an aficionado of Luberon wine..

User avatar
Alan Rath
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 18285
Joined: April 24th, 2009, 12:45 am
Location: Bay Area, CA. Sometimes out to lunch.

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#70 Post by Alan Rath » December 24th, 2018, 12:06 pm

Brandon J. wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 10:06 am
At first I was almost angry at the notion that soil types doesn't matter
I suspect this is a lot of people’s first reaction, but it bears stressing that this is not what the article is saying. He’s saying that the way soil is expressed in the wine is much more complicated than just rock -> vine -> grapes -> wine. Soil is important.
I'm just one lost soul, swimming in a fish bowl, year after year

User avatar
GregT
Posts: 7555
Joined: April 15th, 2009, 3:12 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#71 Post by GregT » December 24th, 2018, 5:58 pm

Right. And it's not something you can organize your wine list by, or claim to taste.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

User avatar
Thor Iverson
Posts: 126
Joined: January 8th, 2010, 2:06 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#72 Post by Thor Iverson » December 24th, 2018, 9:10 pm

It's unnecessary to get into a debate about biodynamie to point out that folks who practice it have an obsessive concern with and attention to their soil. One of the reasons biodynamie "works" whether or not you believe in it (I'm a skeptic) is because of this. If adherence to the philosophy leads to a soil-obsession, I'm well in favor of it.

User avatar
Jim Anderson
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 5125
Joined: October 20th, 2010, 1:18 pm
Location: Portland/Newberg, Oregon

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#73 Post by Jim Anderson » December 24th, 2018, 11:59 pm

GregT wrote:
December 24th, 2018, 5:58 pm
Right. And it's not something you can organize your wine list by, or claim to taste.
Not so sure of that. Again, the volcanic soil based sites in my cellar have a pretty easily identifiable character. The marine soil sites have a very different character. Tasting the difference is really basic. Is that all soil? I don’t think so but at some level the contribution of the soil into the overall expression of the wine in its 3 dimensions is pretty easy to discern.
Co-owner, Patricia Green Cellars

User avatar
GregT
Posts: 7555
Joined: April 15th, 2009, 3:12 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#74 Post by GregT » December 25th, 2018, 7:59 pm

Jim I believe that. I've done it myself in other places and the different sites are quite different. I don't know how your sites are situated, or whether there are strips of different rock types in the same vineyard, but I don't know anyone who can say with any certainty, on tasting a wine, that it came from loess or limestone. We'd have to be blind not to see that there are different types of soil in different vineyards, and even that different weeds grow partly depending on the pH and type of soils, but I would venture to say that if one put six or eight bottles in a tasting, all from say, slate or granite soils, it would be unlikely that someone would be able to tell which came from which soil in a blind tasting. People such as you, who are intimately familiar with specific sites, can likely identify specific vineyards. But it's a gestalt experience, and as you say, the contribution of the soil is hard to single out.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#75 Post by Wes Barton » December 26th, 2018, 12:04 am

GregT wrote:
December 25th, 2018, 7:59 pm
Jim I believe that. I've done it myself in other places and the different sites are quite different. I don't know how your sites are situated, or whether there are strips of different rock types in the same vineyard, but I don't know anyone who can say with any certainty, on tasting a wine, that it came from loess or limestone. We'd have to be blind not to see that there are different types of soil in different vineyards, and even that different weeds grow partly depending on the pH and type of soils, but I would venture to say that if one put six or eight bottles in a tasting, all from say, slate or granite soils, it would be unlikely that someone would be able to tell which came from which soil in a blind tasting. People such as you, who are intimately familiar with specific sites, can likely identify specific vineyards. But it's a gestalt experience, and as you say, the contribution of the soil is hard to single out.
I'd say usually, but not always. Aside from the choices that can mask terroir, the author touches on something else. Soil types are broad categories. For marketing, people will talk about their wines being the desired soil type. Maybe it's in the mix, but too muddled to show distinctively. Maybe it's of volcanic origin, but so broken down by time it has very little in common with younger volcanic soils. Iirc, it's Ian d'Agata who pointed out how common it is for producers to lie about their soil being volcanic, to put it bluntly. It's what the region is known for, so they feel they have to claim it, despite their wines being great for non-volcanic soil, despite the reality most of the vineyards in the region not being on volcanic soil.

Put another way, I've never been wrong when I called a blind wine as coming from volcanic soil. I haven't made that call all that many times, either. One a few months ago was obviously Italian and volcanic with the nature of its tannin structure and floral aromatic expression. Not Aglianico. Not Sagrantino. Umm... turned out to be Petite Sirah from Manton Valley. But, since it has so little in common with CA PS, I'll stick with my original guess. It's a much better guess.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

User avatar
GregT
Posts: 7555
Joined: April 15th, 2009, 3:12 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#76 Post by GregT » December 26th, 2018, 12:07 am

Good stuff Wes! We need to do a tasting. And here's another thing - whites or reds?
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

Eric Lundblad
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 1668
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 2:36 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#77 Post by Eric Lundblad » December 26th, 2018, 11:50 am

One thing about comparing wines from the same soil type: It's typical (on the west coast at any rate) for a soil to be ~80% from one type of rock (volcanic, sedimentary, etc), and the remaining % from a mix of others.

Also, it's common for vineyards to have several different soils (in different locations of the property). In Burgundy (for example), the boundaries between soils is super precise (because the soils moved very very slowly)...enough that you can have grand cru vines in a row, and village vines in the row next to it (Clos Vougeot for example, tho that grand cru row gets never ending grief). One the west coast, the geologic forces moved the soil much much faster, so the soil boundaries are really fuzzy and imprecise.

None of this is a bad thing (imo), but it makes comparing wines of the 'same' type of soil somewhat complicated.
Ladd Cellars
Winemaker & Owner

Eric Lundblad
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 1668
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 2:36 pm

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#78 Post by Eric Lundblad » December 26th, 2018, 12:17 pm

In addition to the Decanter article, Guild Somm has an article (in two parts) by Prof Maltman on this same subject...and I think is a better & more complete description of his ideas (I assume because of space limitations in the Decanter article):

Part 1: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... principles

Part 2: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... rd-geology
Ladd Cellars
Winemaker & Owner

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#79 Post by Wes Barton » December 26th, 2018, 4:30 pm

GregT wrote:
December 26th, 2018, 12:07 am
Good stuff Wes! We need to do a tasting. And here's another thing - whites or reds?
I don't recall a white screaming volcanic soil to me. Not saying there can't be a signature there that I've gotten in retrospect, but subtle enough that it hasn't been something I've honed in on. Maybe some skin contact would bring it out more? Maybe we'll be finding that out ourselves, at some point...
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

User avatar
Otto Forsberg
Posts: 708
Joined: December 28th, 2017, 4:26 am
Location: Finland

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#80 Post by Otto Forsberg » December 27th, 2018, 2:16 am

Wes Barton wrote:
December 26th, 2018, 4:30 pm
GregT wrote:
December 26th, 2018, 12:07 am
Good stuff Wes! We need to do a tasting. And here's another thing - whites or reds?
I don't recall a white screaming volcanic soil to me. Not saying there can't be a signature there that I've gotten in retrospect, but subtle enough that it hasn't been something I've honed in on. Maybe some skin contact would bring it out more? Maybe we'll be finding that out ourselves, at some point...
What's typical of volcanic wines seems to be particularly high acidity and quite often a somewhat piercing yet not unpleasant bitterness I'm tempted to describe as gravelly minerality. Also whites seem to have a tendency to show somewhat smoky character at times - I wonder if these wines have a tendency toward subtle reduction.

The bright acidity and mineral backbone is quite obvious if one tastes side-by-side an Assyrtiko from Santorini and another from mainland Greece. Or a Palomino from Lanzarote and another from mainland Spain.

Subu Ramachandran
Posts: 615
Joined: May 3rd, 2017, 1:16 pm
Location: NYC

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#81 Post by Subu Ramachandran » December 27th, 2018, 7:47 am

Eric Lundblad wrote:
December 26th, 2018, 12:17 pm
In addition to the Decanter article, Guild Somm has an article (in two parts) by Prof Maltman on this same subject...and I think is a better & more complete description of his ideas (I assume because of space limitations in the Decanter article):

Part 1: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... principles

Part 2: https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... rd-geology
Eric, thanks for the links. Quite an interesting read. One of the articles he states:

"It follows from this that the belief that old vines have deep roots and therefore provide something extra to wine lacks scientific justification. Similarly, there is no basis for the common assertion that a complex geology leads to complex flavors in the wine."

Why do I hear so many winemakers wait for the vines to mature/ root system to develop? Is a 10yr old vine just as good as a 50 yr old? Does this mean "vieilles vignes" that's quite prevalent in many French wine labels, imply nothing?

User avatar
larry schaffer
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 7520
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 9:26 am
Location: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#82 Post by larry schaffer » December 27th, 2018, 7:57 am

Those are awesome questions - and ones that do not seem to be easily answerable 'scientifically'. And therein lies the 'challenge' here - what is actually going on and is it truly 'explainable' and 'objective'.

I don't have answers for that as well - but let me use something here that might explain some of this in a small way. At one of the wineries I worked at, there were certain pinot blocks that were 'known' to produce exemplary grapes, and ones that our head winemaker believed made the 'best' wines. Well, these blocks were always sampled more, tended to more by the vineyard manager, and, when the grapes arrived at the winery, handled in a more comprehensive manner than other grapes from the same vineyard. They were always fermented in our 'favorite' fermentors, and were given more TLC in terms of barrel selection . . . so the question that I had was whether we were 'pre-determining' the best lots 'in advance' by our actions or simply 'reinforcing' these best lots . . . and there was no way to know because of the 'special treatments' these lots received.

With wine production, it's nearly impossible to look for minute differences and know that there is a cause/effect relationship. Even if we wanted to ferment a number of lots 'identically' and have one variable be different to isolate it and see its effects, it's truly impossible to do so based on the individual kinetics of fermentation and aging.

I'd love to be proven wrong, but unfortunately, what we'll end up with is 'well, I tried this technique and it led to this and therefore this is the cause/effect' - and that is just wishful thinking until you can replicate this again and again and again . . .

I can't wait to hear what others have to say about this - love these discussions . . .

Cheers!
larry schaffer
tercero wines

Jayson Cohen
Posts: 1777
Joined: July 9th, 2016, 4:29 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#83 Post by Jayson Cohen » December 27th, 2018, 11:29 am

Sometimes what we observe with our brains and collective wisdom, and becomes almost folk lore, turns out to be scientifically correct but just very very difficult to unpack and explain scientifically.

If he was a little more careful, he would have written “lacks an explainable scientific justification, at least to date.” Or based on the factors I have considered. Or something like that.

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#84 Post by Wes Barton » December 27th, 2018, 2:54 pm

Yeah, that's part of human history and knowledge. We observe something, then create a conceptualization to help us understand and remember. So, a myth or whatever around a cure for an infection may turn out to be utter BS, but the cure still works. Dismissing a cure merely because a rationalization of why it works becomes disproven is bad science. It's not a fact it doesn't work just because you don't understand. That's a position of hubris. An illusion of certainty was peeled away, which should draw new scrutiny for sure, but not some irrational new certainty.

There have been plenty of discussions of old vines and factors that often lead to stereotypical characteristics. But, not all wines from old vines show like old vines wines. General wisdom is some varieties don't perform near their potential as young vines, while others seem to hit their stride immediately. But, there are exceptions. Why? The real explanation could have nothing to do with the variety, but just a conceptualization based on differing circumstance. Like, if that variety was brought over in a wave, and the new sites differed dramatically from where the source material came from, so the vines took time to acclimate. The apples to oranges comparison for those winemakers being everything else they've planted coming from successful vines at similar enough sites in the same region. Deck stacked, false conclusion made. A generation later, new vines propagated from those vines of that "problem" variety perform well from the start. Meanwhile, other plantings of that variety continue being sourced from the nursery with the suboptimal material, leading to more data points reinforcing that false impression.
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

User avatar
John Morris
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 16306
Joined: June 21st, 2009, 2:09 pm
Location: Gotham

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#85 Post by John Morris » December 27th, 2018, 3:11 pm

What a great thread, guys. I'm catching up after a couple of days away. I really appreciate all the observations and openness!
Otto Forsberg wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 2:16 am
What's typical of volcanic wines seems to be particularly high acidity and quite often a somewhat piercing yet not unpleasant bitterness I'm tempted to describe as gravelly minerality. Also whites seem to have a tendency to show somewhat smoky character at times - I wonder if these wines have a tendency toward subtle reduction.

The bright acidity and mineral backbone is quite obvious if one tastes side-by-side an Assyrtiko from Santorini and another from mainland Greece. Or a Palomino from Lanzarote and another from mainland Spain.
Are the mainland assyrtiko vines on their own roots? I believe they all are on Santorini. In other words, the soil and location may determine the rootstock, and affect the wine indirectly that way.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

User avatar
John Morris
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 16306
Joined: June 21st, 2009, 2:09 pm
Location: Gotham

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#86 Post by John Morris » December 27th, 2018, 3:15 pm

Jayson Cohen wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 11:29 am
Sometimes what we observe with our brains and collective wisdom, and becomes almost folk lore, turns out to be scientifically correct but just very very difficult to unpack and explain scientifically.

If he was a little more careful, he would have written “lacks an explainable scientific justification, at least to date.” Or based on the factors I have considered. Or something like that.
Wes Barton wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 2:54 pm
Yeah, that's part of human history and knowledge. We observe something, then create a conceptualization to help us understand and remember. So, a myth or whatever around a cure for an infection may turn out to be utter BS, but the cure still works. Dismissing a cure merely because a rationalization of why it works becomes disproven is bad science. It's not a fact it doesn't work just because you don't understand. That's a position of hubris. An illusion of certainty was peeled away, which should draw new scrutiny for sure, but not some irrational new certainty.
I always think of acupuncture, which so far as I know still is not understood within a Western medicine framework. It doesn't always work, and sometimes if it does, it's probably the placebo effect. But it seems that it does genuinely work in many cases.
"I'm a Frisbeetarian. We worship frisbees. We believe when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can't get it down." – Jim Stafford

"The Internet has resulted in an exponential increase in the number of instances in which humor must be explained." - me, 2019

User avatar
larry schaffer
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 7520
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 9:26 am
Location: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#87 Post by larry schaffer » December 27th, 2018, 4:13 pm

Jayson Cohen wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 11:29 am
Sometimes what we observe with our brains and collective wisdom, and becomes almost folk lore, turns out to be scientifically correct but just very very difficult to unpack and explain scientifically.

If he was a little more careful, he would have written “lacks an explainable scientific justification, at least to date.” Or based on the factors I have considered. Or something like that.
And sometimes it's just folklore and it's not scientifically correct at all.

There are so many conventional wisdom and wine would you just don't hold on a consistent basis. A couple of my favorites:

Unfiltered wines have more texture than filtered wines do

Always have red wine red meat and white wine with fish

Cheers
larry schaffer
tercero wines

Jayson Cohen
Posts: 1777
Joined: July 9th, 2016, 4:29 pm
Location: New York, NY

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#88 Post by Jayson Cohen » December 27th, 2018, 4:42 pm

larry schaffer wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 4:13 pm
Jayson Cohen wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 11:29 am
Sometimes what we observe with our brains and collective wisdom, and becomes almost folk lore, turns out to be scientifically correct but just very very difficult to unpack and explain scientifically.

If he was a little more careful, he would have written “lacks an explainable scientific justification, at least to date.” Or based on the factors I have considered. Or something like that.
And sometimes it's just folklore and it's not scientifically correct at all.

There are so many conventional wisdom and wine would you just don't hold on a consistent basis.
Sure. Of course. But we should keep testing and challenging but not dismissing, particularly ones like the benefits of old vines, where we suspect something is going on that goes beyond the romance and folk lore of it.

Wes Barton
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 3446
Joined: January 29th, 2009, 3:54 am

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#89 Post by Wes Barton » December 27th, 2018, 4:51 pm

John Morris wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 3:15 pm
I always think of acupuncture, which so far as I know still is not understood within a Western medicine framework. It doesn't always work, and sometimes if it does, it's probably the placebo effect. But it seems that it does genuinely work in many cases.
The placebo effect is likely part of it, but that's still a real effect. But, acupuncture is monkeying around with an electrical system (the nervous system). A lot of muscle and joint pain is from damaged muscle tissue tensed up in spasm. There's a signal loop perpetuating that response. Sending a new input to break that signal loop is how pacemakers and defibrillators work. Getting a tensed up muscle system to relax allows it to heal and resolves uneven tension on joints. Seems pretty solid with what we know about how our nervous system functions that some wacky ancient trial-and-error observation derived method that taps into it actually works. Massage therapy can address those same issues (perhaps better in some cases and worse in others?) Is popping some pills to alleviate the symptoms without addressing the problem more scientific?
ITB - Useless lackey

"I've acquired enough wine to seduce an elephant." - Jennifer Robin

User avatar
larry schaffer
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 7520
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 9:26 am
Location: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#90 Post by larry schaffer » December 27th, 2018, 5:30 pm

Jayson Cohen wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 4:42 pm
larry schaffer wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 4:13 pm
Jayson Cohen wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 11:29 am
Sometimes what we observe with our brains and collective wisdom, and becomes almost folk lore, turns out to be scientifically correct but just very very difficult to unpack and explain scientifically.

If he was a little more careful, he would have written “lacks an explainable scientific justification, at least to date.” Or based on the factors I have considered. Or something like that.
And sometimes it's just folklore and it's not scientifically correct at all.

There are so many conventional wisdom and wine would you just don't hold on a consistent basis.
Sure. Of course. But we should keep testing and challenging but not dismissing, particularly ones like the benefits of old vines, where we suspect something is going on that goes beyond the romance and folk lore of it.
I certainly hear you and I'm all for continued research. But it sounds like to some, they won't be satisfied until the research shows what they wanted to show. Does that make sense?

Loving the conversation and hope we continue at it for a long long time. Cheers!
larry schaffer
tercero wines

Doug Schulman
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 4980
Joined: October 21st, 2009, 9:42 am
Location: MA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#91 Post by Doug Schulman » December 28th, 2018, 10:15 am

I recently got an email from a retailer who seems to really know wine and offer fantastic selections that made me think of this thread. Here's a quote.
Mesnil's unique broken chalky soil allows vines to easily travel deep, picking up nutrients and mineral expressions from this bedrock, in turn, supplying the wines with that chalk-inflected and unmistakable saline note that stands apart from even the neighboring villages in the Côte de Blancs.
[soap.gif] [head-bang.gif] [head-bang.gif]
ITB - retail sales and education

User avatar
larry schaffer
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 7520
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 9:26 am
Location: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#92 Post by larry schaffer » December 28th, 2018, 10:27 am

Doug Schulman wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 10:15 am
I recently got an email from a retailer who seems to really know wine and offer fantastic selections that made me think of this thread. Here's a quote.
Mesnil's unique broken chalky soil allows vines to easily travel deep, picking up nutrients and mineral expressions from this bedrock, in turn, supplying the wines with that chalk-inflected and unmistakable saline note that stands apart from even the neighboring villages in the Côte de Blancs.
[soap.gif] [head-bang.gif] [head-bang.gif]
If 'we' 'imply' things often enough, they become 'fact', right?

Yep, the more you read from brokers/distributors/winemakers, the more you realize that lots of 'assumptions' are made, and many of them are 'hopeful' at best. It's a real challenge to not do this - and that's what I strive to do. There is so much more that we do NOT know then we do - can't we accept this and explain things in that manner?

Cheers.
larry schaffer
tercero wines

Doug Schulman
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 4980
Joined: October 21st, 2009, 9:42 am
Location: MA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#93 Post by Doug Schulman » December 28th, 2018, 10:36 am

larry schaffer wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 10:27 am
There is so much more that we do NOT know then we do - can't we accept this and explain things in that manner?
That would be nice. The distinctive characteristics of the wines he's talking about do exist, and they are special. I don't think the false explanation needs to be there to sell the wines. When someone asks me what gives some wines certain characteristics, I'm always happy to answer that I have no idea and I'm pretty sure no one does if I believe that to be the case.
ITB - retail sales and education

User avatar
David Glasser
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 6231
Joined: August 16th, 2009, 6:03 pm
Location: Maryland

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#94 Post by David Glasser » December 28th, 2018, 12:32 pm

A little romance can’t hurt sales, and that tale of romance between the vine and the soil is just the ticket. You can’t explain love scientifically, right?

User avatar
Cris Whetstone
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 10815
Joined: January 27th, 2009, 1:09 pm
Location: OC, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#95 Post by Cris Whetstone » December 28th, 2018, 12:34 pm

I always just picture tiny little dwarves living in the roots, coming out to chisel bits of mineral off the nuggets in the surrounding soil. They take that back home into the vine roots and send them on up to the grapes. Just for us.

WetRock

"Man prefers to believe what he prefers to be true." - Francis Bacon

"I had taken two finger-bowls of champagne and the scene had changed before my eyes into something significant, elemental, and profound." - F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Doug Schulman
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 4980
Joined: October 21st, 2009, 9:42 am
Location: MA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#96 Post by Doug Schulman » December 28th, 2018, 1:31 pm

[rofl.gif] That is really funny.
ITB - retail sales and education

User avatar
Jim Anderson
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 5125
Joined: October 20th, 2010, 1:18 pm
Location: Portland/Newberg, Oregon

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#97 Post by Jim Anderson » December 28th, 2018, 1:47 pm

Cris Whetstone wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 12:34 pm
I always just picture tiny little dwarves living in the roots, coming out to chisel bits of mineral off the nuggets in the surrounding soil. They take that back home into the vine roots and send them on up to the grapes. Just for us.

Ever read an actual biodynamic farming manual? That’s in there.
Co-owner, Patricia Green Cellars

User avatar
larry schaffer
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 7520
Joined: January 28th, 2009, 9:26 am
Location: Santa Ynez Valley, CA

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#98 Post by larry schaffer » December 28th, 2018, 4:05 pm

David Glasser wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 12:32 pm
A little romance can’t hurt sales, and that tale of romance between the vine and the soil is just the ticket. You can’t explain love scientifically, right?
Same as faith, right? [drinkers.gif] hitsfan [swoon.gif]
larry schaffer
tercero wines

User avatar
David Glasser
GCC Member
GCC Member
Posts: 6231
Joined: August 16th, 2009, 6:03 pm
Location: Maryland

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#99 Post by David Glasser » December 28th, 2018, 10:40 pm

larry schaffer wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 4:05 pm
David Glasser wrote:
December 28th, 2018, 12:32 pm
A little romance can’t hurt sales, and that tale of romance between the vine and the soil is just the ticket. You can’t explain love scientifically, right?
Same as faith, right? [drinkers.gif] hitsfan [swoon.gif]
Yup, and it sells a ton of books.
Just sayin' don’t confuse the sales pitch with the science.
I see it constantly in my field.

User avatar
Jim Anderson
BerserkerBusiness
BerserkerBusiness
Posts: 5125
Joined: October 20th, 2010, 1:18 pm
Location: Portland/Newberg, Oregon

Re: Busting terroir myths: The science of soil and wine taste

#100 Post by Jim Anderson » December 29th, 2018, 10:28 am

larry schaffer wrote:
December 27th, 2018, 7:57 am
Those are awesome questions - and ones that do not seem to be easily answerable 'scientifically'. And therein lies the 'challenge' here - what is actually going on and is it truly 'explainable' and 'objective'.

I don't have answers for that as well - but let me use something here that might explain some of this in a small way. At one of the wineries I worked at, there were certain pinot blocks that were 'known' to produce exemplary grapes, and ones that our head winemaker believed made the 'best' wines. Well, these blocks were always sampled more, tended to more by the vineyard manager, and, when the grapes arrived at the winery, handled in a more comprehensive manner than other grapes from the same vineyard. They were always fermented in our 'favorite' fermentors, and were given more TLC in terms of barrel selection . . . so the question that I had was whether we were 'pre-determining' the best lots 'in advance' by our actions or simply 'reinforcing' these best lots . . . and there was no way to know because of the 'special treatments' these lots received.

With wine production, it's nearly impossible to look for minute differences and know that there is a cause/effect relationship. Even if we wanted to ferment a number of lots 'identically' and have one variable be different to isolate it and see its effects, it's truly impossible to do so based on the individual kinetics of fermentation and aging.

I'd love to be proven wrong, but unfortunately, what we'll end up with is 'well, I tried this technique and it led to this and therefore this is the cause/effect' - and that is just wishful thinking until you can replicate this again and again and again . . .

I can't wait to hear what others have to say about this - love these discussions . . .

Cheers!
I agree and disagree here. Certainly attempting to pare things down to one variable across multiple fermenters is difficult. We do, I believe, successfully see the difference between fermentation percentages across multiple fermenters from the same block but this year I tried to see if there was a difference between doing 50% whole cluster with the destemmed fruit on the bottom versus the destemmed fruit on the top and, other than finding one easier to do from a process standpoint (thank you Jeremy Seysses) I could discern no difference in the wines that was traceable to the experiment’s intended target. I think one can get a result they desire that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the experiment being done due to the bias one is bringing to the process.

However, in terms of a vineyard I think long-term exposure to a site and years of working with the fruit are far more powerful tools than any science book approach will bear. For instance, in our vineyard we have 21 individual blocks of Pinot based on vine age, clone, exposure (we face 360 degrees) and elevation (range from 225 to almost 500). We planted a 1.25 acre block in 2000 to 777 (much to my never ending irritation at this point). This block produces fruit that usually ends up in our Reserve Pinot ($27) or, maybe twice, in the Estate Pinot ($37). To its west is the Etzel Block which is the best section of the vineyard ($60), to the north is the Wadensvil Block that may have the highest ceiling ($55), to the east the Halluhljah Block and the south the Grapes of Wrath Block which, generally, make up the base for the Estate Old Vine Pinot ($42). I have tried everything I can think of in the vineyard and winery to bring some more substance into this wine. It is to no avail. So, we are going to graft it over to Coury Clone which we have been very successful with in 3 other vineyards and see if the clone (my supposition) is impacting what the land can potentially bear in this block. Likewise, we are grafting 1.75 acres of Pinot to Chardonnay in another block planted in 2000 that is clearly in a spot not best suited for Pinot. It’s years of experience, observation, trial and error and winemaking/tasting that have led us to this conclusion. I don’t think any science stuff is going to make a better set of decisions or make for better wine.

Humans and vines should have an interaction that is mutually beneficial. Whether I know what exactly is going on 10, 20, 30 feet down in the soil is not of particular importance to me. I believe that seeing what the plants do and the fruit they produce over time is informational enough that the decisions we make and what we say about our vineyard and wines are accurate enough that we aren’t spinning some BS story about is happening. That others do it is irrelevant to me. I see plenty of labels that say “made in traditional Burgundian methodology” which is utter horseshit. Talking about geology and vineyards and wine can go down that road as well but it also can be done with integrity and informationally within the context of wines people are tasting.

Wine is not science. At least, IMO, it should not be solely dropped into that category no matter how many juice and chem panels I have in my vintage book. However, bringing some of the basics of geology and chemistry to the tasting/drinking/selling experience is far from a crime. That people abuse this is part of the human experience.
Co-owner, Patricia Green Cellars

Post Reply

Return to “Wine Talk”