Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Dirty "T" Word

"Terroir"... I'm certainly one who loves to bandy that word about. Seems like the scholarly cool wine-guy term to use to make you look like you know what your talking about. But I actually do "believe" in the concept of terroir. Well, let's go back a couple steps...

"Terroir" is that hard to describe French term that has no simple translation. The example is that you can take the rootstock from Barolo Brunate, plant it in the same type of soils somewhere else, approximate the climatic conditions to a "t" and you still cannot make Barolo Brunate in Mendoza. Thus the "terroir" of Brunate is singular and Brunate can never to be reproduced anywhere but on those white soils of La Morra. But there is another connotation to the term. It is that of being able to taste "terroir". Well, I can assure you that there are many, many folks that can taste wines blind and tell you which one is Puligny-Montrachet Les Folatieres and which one is Puligny-Montrachet Les Pucelles simply from a sniff, swish and swallow. But what about the notion that "terroir" is really code for "rustic" which can be code for "dirty" if you take it 12 steps further.

I've always had a soft spot for wines that I feel express their place. Wine comes from grapes, which the last time I checked is a fruit. And when I eat fruit, I like it to not be bitter. So why then are there many wines that are supposedly "terroir"-based, that are overtly earthy, lacking in fruit and charm, many loaded with discernable flaws like brett or volatile acidity? To me, "terroir" doesn't mean the wine tastes like a hairball your cat just spit up. It only means that it has a signature, a story that tells the tale of the place from which it hails. It also doesn't mean that it is necessarily good. Many wines have passed my lips that have been very reflective of a place, a place that I don't really want to taste again. St. Romain comes to mind. By and large, it is disgusting Chardonnay to me. I honestly want to drive a tractor trailer through the entire appellation and build McMansions there. Would be a better use of the land than making crap Burgundy, but I digress...

JCB the 4th

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