Last summer I ran into friend Amy Collins at our local Farmer’s Market and she casually invited me to come by The Wine Seller – a wine shop where she helped out a friend on Saturday afternoons. I believe that I murmured a sort-of-okay but later that afternoon did actually visit the store. It is not that I avoided wines; I just rarely found wines that I really enjoyed. Living in Austria, I fell in love with visiting the wine growers of the Wachau to sample their young wines. What I didn’t know at the time was that what I fell in love with had a name: terroir.
That afternoon at The Wine Seller, Amy gave me an impromptu wine lesson that led me to discover what I do like in a wine. My tastes included words like mineral, light, effervescence, high-acidity, subtle fruit, clean and lean.
A few weeks ago, Amy recommended The Battle for Wine and Love – calling it the The Omnivore’s Dilemma for the world of wine. The book is an eye opener and becomes like a wine dictionary for the wine novice like me. I don’t really enjoy all the personal information that Alice Feiring shares in the book but her tales of wine and wine making are fantastic.
In the first chapters, she describes a 1969 Nuits St. George as tasting like “peonies pressed between the pages of a treasured novel.” She grabbed my attention. I want to taste that wine.
After reading the book, I know that the same craft that I speak about so often in my professional life is the same craft that I love in a good wine. It is about authenticity – about loving and appreciating the essence of place and time.
Alice writes on page 49:
“It’s hard to believe that the industry wouldn’t fight transparency with every bit of muscle it has. I just don’t see Big Wine allowing labels on wine reading something like this: This wine was de-alcoholized by reverse osmosis and smoothed out with micro-oxygenation. Ingredients: Water, alcohol, grapes, chestnut tannin, oak extract, oak dust, genetically modified yeast, urea, enzymes, grape juice, tartaric acid, betonies and Velcorin. On a naturally made wine, the ingredient list would read simply: Grapes and minimal sulfur (100parts per million or lower).
Her descriptions of the wines she does not like explain my own frustration with wine today. She uses words like “flabby, over-ripe, scented, perfumed, explosive bouquet, cherry drops, fat, oaky, thick, dense” to describe the oneness that has overcome the wine industry. In reading her words, it was like a light went off in my palate.
Amy brought a beautiful bottle of 2008 Getariako Txakolina made by Txomin Etxaniz to dinner this week. I now know to say that the bottle is filled with terroir – a sense of place that reveals the soil, the air, the sea, and the smell of the Basque region of Spain.
I am hooked on tasting trace elements of the soil – for life – and am looking forward to learning more and more.
The photo above is another dinner party gift – thanks to Ann Taylor. It is a Robert Sinskey 2008 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir – Grown, Produced and Bottled by Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Napa, California – organic, biodynamic, full of character and delicious. The website also offers seasonal menus.
Read responsibly: The Battle for Wine and Love
**Update: Earlier today, I misspelled the word terroir as terrior. Forgive me my sloppy typing and dyslexia. As Ina was so kind to point out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terroir