Thursday, October 04, 2007

Terroir is an excellent marketing tool, that’s why everyone uses it

I’ve not jumped into the terroir argument in any substantial way. The reason is that while I believe there are wines that display a sense of place (e.g. the eucalyptus notes in Cabernet Sauvignon from the Willows vineyard in the Barossa or the influence of calcrete on Coonawarra wines), I just don’t see many wine drinkers showing that much interest or facility in identifying the flavors and tastes that may indicate that a wine is expressing its terroir.

Others, like David Farmer of Glug, are even more suspicious of the concept of terroir. An article written by David makes some interesting points, and is certainly worth reading. Like all well written opinion pieces he saved the best for last.

As for being able to recognise when a wine is expressing terroir this seems more hope than reality and it seems more and more that terroir simply means making the best wine possible from that site. After all that is what humans have been learning to do for centuries.

Perhaps the last word should be this from the Beaune négociant, Louis Latour as reported in the August 2000 edition of Bourgogne Aujourd'hui.

"What definition do you give for terroir?

"None! It’s an idea that doesn’t move me much. A great wine is born from a set of conditions amongst which is the soil. We must simplify! The essential thing is to say to the client that this wine comes from this place. Full stop! This is already the case when we speak of ‘wine from Beaune.’ And then when you try to analyse in detail the diverse elements of terroir you find yourself with such uncertainties that it's better not to stick your nose in too far. That said, terroir is an excellent marketing tool, that’s why everyone uses it." *

* This translation is by Warren Moran, Professor of Geography, University of New Zealand and is from Terroir-The Human Factor.
Link to article.

Additional Note: David Farmer's Land Surface Studies.

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