Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

A few words on terroir

By Jessica Yadegaran
Monday, March 16th, 2009 at 6:23 pm in Corkheads.


Back from furlough. You know, that thing where you stay home and pretend you’re on vacation even though you don’t have a dime to spend. In fact, you’re losing dimes. Around 6,000, to be exact.

I had lots of time on my hands so here’s something to ponder. More and more, I find myself scratching my head at New World tastings. I’m looking for the soil. I’m looking for it to speak to me, to tell me where it’s from and why it’s different from its inland neighbor or coastal cousin.

But, with the exception of Rutherford, some parts of Sonoma and Santa Barbara counties and regions in Australia where there are eucalyptus trees nearby, here’s the rub: If you have too much fruit, you may not have terroir. The fruit, however gorgeous, covers it up.

Someone presented this idea to me and it’s illuminating. I can stop burning my nostril hairs inhaling 16 percent Zinfandel and just relax. Instead, I’ll grab a barbeque spare rib, lean back, take a bite, and a Big Gulp.

Happy Monday after furlough.

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  • brunobarolo

    How many ways can you lose terroir? Could it be by designer yeast, drip irrigation, over-ripened fruit, additives, fancy tannin and reverse osmosis tricks, new oak, other entries to International Style? I am a wine person first and foremost, but some wines make me search for a beer or outward to the old-school vintners of Europe. I look at the alcohol level, too. If I want Amarone levels of alcohol, I’d buy Amarone.

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  • Jessica

    Or a sparkling wine. Amen, Brunobarolo.

  • Kelly

    Well, said, Jessica. I never really thought of wine being an expression of landscape before. How many times have I opened a bottle from places Steph and I have visited and just turned on my imagination? More than I can account for, truly. It’s in the soil and air as much as it’s in the bottle and glass. Thanks for passing forward the illumination.

  • Jessica

    Word, my brotha. Those scrumptious wines you enjoyed for weeks in the Languedoc were loaded with terroir.

  • Kelly

    Indeed. Terroir galore.

  • Uzi

    Must be something in the air, too. To Brunobarolo, don’t forget about the harvest timing decision, or how long to ‘let it hang’. Funny you mention Amarone, I used the same example in my recent post. 😉

  • Jessica

    Great post, thanks for sharing.