“ It comes from the old Latin word terra, which means earth. It suggests that each individual place in the world is unique: when it comes to soil chemistry and structure, weather and climate, orientation to the sun, and so on, no two vineyards are alike. This means, in theory, that the wines that come from these places are distinct from all other wines, possessing some inimitable mark of their origin, just as a human child is the product of its specific parents and upbringing. When an expert refers to “a wine of terroir,” that is a compliment.” – Steve Heimoff
Today we celebrate Earth Day with an exploration of one of the wine terms we get asked about the most: terroir. This past week, Margaux sat down for a seminar with terroir experts Antonio Morescalchi and Pedro Parra.
How does the winemaker enter into the equation of terroir?
It is the winemakers job to truly understand his terroir, more importantly how to respond to it. For example: you can’t make wine the same when it has been a rainy year vs. a drought. You have to know that punch overs are too aggressive for grapes coming from limestone soil, but great for greats coming from gravel. Things like that.
You can’t learn terroir through reading a book. It is something that has to be hands on, and Pedro has spent his life learning about it.
You need your vines to grow deep and “eat” deep down in the earth. Thin roots are a good thing. It means they are eating. Thick roots are bad. They are transferring minimal nutrients. Flavor come from the soil, minerality comes from the stones. And this all comes together to form terroir.
How does climate influence terroir? Are there any wine regions that are already changing because of climate change?
Climate is apart of terroir. Terroir is the complete environment in which the grapes are grown in. The soil, topography and climate. Farmers are already having to change their methods because of the effects of global warming.
What is an up and coming region?
According to Pedro, Cahors is the next big region for France. They are starting to really understand their terroir and the Malbec coming out of there is really impressive.
Did anything really spark you interest at the seminar?
The most interesting thing for me was blind tasting based on soil type. It was really interesting to tangibly be able to feel what limestone or basalt makes the wine feel like in the mouth.
What wine in the Wine Shop would you guide someone towards if they are trying to learn how to taste terroir?
At the end of the seminar, we did a blind tasting, with an emphasis on tasting the terroir.
For Pedro, he doesn’t blind taste based on the flavor of the wine. It is all about the structure and texture. How does the wine feel in his mouth? What sensation is it giving him? Based off the texture he can narrow down the soil, then region, the grape varietal.
The line up…
Granite Soil: Saint Joseph
Basalt Soil: Oregon Pinot Noir
Limestone soil: Altos Las Hormigas Malbec
Schist: Spanish Tempranillo
It was incredibly interesting to taste based off of terroir. Let me know if you are interested in exploring this topic with me, I have a lot to share!
Cheers from your Pocket Somm! – Margaux