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 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 116, March 2013   
Wine and TerroirWine and Terroir Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 115, February 2013 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 117, April 2013

Wine and Terroir

Vine, and therefore wine, deeply binds its life and its capabilities of expression with the territory in which it is being cultivated, an indissoluble bond between nature and man

 Wine is the result of many factors, the union of many interactions between man and Nature, fundamentally realized in the vineyard and then with the processing of its fruits. Vine, just like any other plant having its roots in the soil, establishes a fundamental bond which will determine its life cycle. The bond with the environment, as a matter of fact, it is not something concerning plants only: every living being - including man - is influenced by the factors of the environment, both natural and artificial of the context in which it lives in. These factors strongly influence growth and development, expression and everything associated to the result of the interaction and the combination of these conditions. Specifically applied to the vine, environmental conditions and factors interact with its expression - to which it is added, unavoidably, the work of man - and they influence, in a substantial way, both quality as well as organoleptic and sensorial characteristics of wine.


 

 The influence of environmental conditions on wine is always subject of research as well as endless debates and suppositions, praises and demerits, not always provable in an objective way. From the moment man has, like to say, discovered wine - as an enjoyable and pleasing product, result of the control of grape juice fermentation - have being written countless pages, all trying to prove and support the quality of certain wines produced in specific areas. Since the beginning of civilization, from the moment of the invention of writing, up to our days, every era and every epoch had - and continues to have - literary works and written documents dedicated to wine, in which, unavoidably, are accounted the qualities of wines produced in every territory. If it is true that, sometimes, the best wines correspond to those produced in the areas where the author was born or however has a connection, it is undeniable both territory and environment strongly influence wine.

 Factors determining the uniqueness of the production of a wine, of a specific wine produced in a specific territory, are generally defined with the French term terroir. A word having a difficult translation, as it does not have a direct equivalence with English language, terroir can be defined as the set of the conditions occurring and interacting in a specific geographic zone, generally having a quite limited area, conditions of natural and “spontaneous” origin, as well as of “human” origin. French use the term terroir to refer to all those products result of the uniqueness of a territory, which can be defined as local or territorial. The term terroir, despite it is frequently referred to wine, is however used for every agricultural product, considered as the result of the fundamental and strong bond between man and Nature, a condition, unique and unrepeatable, existing in a specific place.

 The conditions defining terroir are many. Among the main factors are mentioned natural and environmental conditions of the place, chemical and physical characteristics of the soil, meteorological and climate conditions, position of the vineyard - therefore exposure and altitude - influence of local meteorological factors, including wind, temperature and humidity. The concept of terroir is never referred to a wide area, it is generally referred to a single vineyard of the estate. This geographical limitation has an evident correspondence to reality: two wines produced with the same grapes, even by the same producer, but cultivated in vineyards distant few tens of meters one from each other, express in the glass unique and distinct sensorial and organoleptic qualities. In other words, the concept of terroir is the clear opposition to standardization, by recognizing the uniqueness and specific qualities of conditions occurring in each part of the territory.


A young vine: a strong bond with the
soil which will be expressed by its wines
A young vine: a strong bond with the soil which will be expressed by its wines

 To these factors given by Nature to every single territory, are added the unavoidable intervention of man and how he interacts with local factors, by limiting, as much as possible, every condition of corruption. Every agricultural and viticultural intervention done by man on the environment, in this sense also including every wine making practice, ideally move the wine away from the authentic and genuine expression of terroir. This does not mean, in any case, man should completely delegate the expressive role to Nature, because - it should be noted - wine does not exist in Nature and its production unavoidably requires the work of man. The intervention and talent of man in fact plays the fundamental role of control and verification of every viticultural and wine making process, in order to ensure a genuine and sound product, with no faults which could compromise the objective quality of wine.

 On this regard, it is unacceptable to justify the presence of faults in a wine by supporting the fact it is the expression of terroir: besides being unfair and dishonest, it proves - with no excuse - the incapability of man to rightly interpret and respect terroir. What has been just said must not be misunderstood. The intervention of man must not be excessively corrective and invasive, by using practices and techniques which can compromise the expression of grapes and territory, only for preventing the presence of faults. In this sense, every wine of industrial or technological origin represents the total denying of the terroir concept. The role of man - by using his intelligence, culture and talent - must therefore play the role of “guarantor”, by helping the terroir conditions to reach their full quality expression, including the unavoidable limits of the territory, of grapes and everything representing and making a terroir.

 Every terroir has both positive and negative characteristics, factors which must be evaluated according to grape varieties cultivated in the territory. Every grape variety, in fact, produces quite different results, sometimes even opposite, according to the place where it is being cultivated and in function of viticultural and wine making conditions. For example, a wine produced with Merlot grape - which generally gives wines with intense colors and appreciable roundness - cultivated in a soil rich in clay and in a warm climate, will give a wine evidently more robust and rich than the one produced with the same grape cultivated in a soil rich in sand and in a cold climate. In the latter case, man must not exasperate the condition of terroir by using excessive procedures, both in viticultural and in wine making terms, in order to get a wine completely extraneous from the nature of the place, by trying to overcome the specific limits of the terroir. Terroir is, first of all, understanding and respect for a place and its grapes, therefore, its wines and, very important, aimed to the promotion of their quality and with no faults.

 For the sake of truth, in the course of the years, the intervention of man has however affected the expression of terroir, by introducing - sometimes as a need - indispensable elements for the survival and the adaptation of vine. For example, we can think about what happened at the end of the 1800s, when viticulture in Europa faced what can be considered the most fearful event in the whole history of wine: phylloxera. Among the elements making terroir, vine represents - undeniably - the fundamental and indispensable element allowing its expression. Vine, as it is commonly known, and just like every other plant, gets nourishment, and therefore survival, through its roots well established in the deep of the soil. Phylloxera, by attacking the roots of vine, causes its death. The damages caused by phylloxera with its arrival to Europe has been dramatic, as to menace the extinction of the Vitis Vinifera in the Old World. The proposed solution, used still today, was to replace the original rootstocks of European varieties with the ones of American vines, which are resistant to phylloxera.

 The solution has been indispensable, however there has always been the doubt on how much having grafted European varieties on rootstocks of American vines, has altered, not only the life cycle of the vine, but also the quality and potential of wines. Moreover, the practice of grafting American rootstocks on European wine vines, had - and continues to have - a strong activity of research in order to find the best rootstocks, appropriate and efficient for every type of grape and for every territory and soil. In fact, at the moment of planting a new vineyard, the choice is not made on the grape variety only, but also on the type of rootstock. This does mean the same variety, grafted on different rootstocks, produces different enological results, as every type of rootstock has proper and specific characteristics and capacity of supplying water and nutrients.

 Among the elements making the terroir we in fact find the composition of soil, the supplying of water, availability of mineral and organic substances. The choice of rootstocks therefore determines the way these factors are being absorbed and used by the vine, therefore, also the full expression of terroir can be altered. Let's consider, for example, two vines belonging to the same variety and same clone, planted in the same vineyard, one near the other, but having a different rootstock: the grapes produced by the vines will have different qualities and characteristics, therefore, making different wines. Another element introduced by man and which certainly influence wine, is the use of the so called selected yeast. Yeast is naturally found on the skin of grapes and - it should be noticed - not all of them are useful and positive for the quality of fermentation. In every terroir are found different strains and varieties of yeast, both positive and negative ones for a proper fermentation.

 The use of selected yeast gives the wine standardized qualities, by literally overwhelming the typical yeast found in a terroir. The initial job of selected yeast - generally being very efficient and present in a dominant quantity - produces the overwhelming of the least efficient strains or of those which usually produces substances which could compromise the organoleptic finesse of wine. For the sake of truth, selected yeast are constituted by Saccharomyces Cerevisiae only, however and naturally found in the yeast strains found in the air and on grape skins. We are not saying, of course, the yeast naturally found in every terroir, and contributing to the definition of a wine character, is negative for the quality of fermentation. It is however undeniable many of them, sometimes being completely unknown and scarcely controllable, can cause negative effects on fermentation, sometimes not allowing the completion of the process as well, a condition which must not be confused with the concept of terroir and its expression.

 Terroir is a concept having valiant and passionate supporters, whereas for others - it should be said, a minority - it is an element excessively overestimated in the production of wine. Sensorial tasting proves the validity of the terroir concept, as the evaluation of wines having similar characteristics according to a viticultural and enological point of view, but produced in different territories, even geographically close one to each other, have substantial organoleptic and sensorial differences. The culture of terroir is particularly strong and supported in France, where producers - proud of their territorial identity - see in this element the characters of uniqueness of their wines. From France the concept of terroir spread in every country of the world, in particular in those where they are trying to revaluate the territorial diversity and the heritage of local grapes, such as Italy.

 



 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 116, March 2013   
Wine and TerroirWine and Terroir Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
Issue 115, February 2013 Follow DiWineTaste on Follow DiWineTaste on TwitterIssue 117, April 2013

Wines of the Month


 

Score legend

Fair    Pretty Good    Good
Very Good    Excellent
Wine that excels in its category Wine that excels in its category
Good value wine Good value wine
Prices are to be considered as indicative. Prices may vary according to the country
or the shop where wines are bought




Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007, Santa Sofia (Veneto, Italy)
Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2007
Santa Sofia (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Corvina, Corvinone (70%), Rondinella (25%), Molinara (5%)
Price: € 34.00 Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Amarone della Valpolicella Classico shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, black cherry and dried violet followed by aromas of plum, blueberry, vanilla, tobacco, chocolate, leather, mace, pink pepper and menthol. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. This Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ages in cask for 3 years followed by 6 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Stewed and braised meat, Roasted meat, Hard cheese



Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2009, Santa Sofia (Veneto, Italy)
Recioto della Valpolicella Classico 2009
Santa Sofia (Veneto, Italy)
Grapes: Corvina, Corvinone (70%), Rondinella (25%), Molinara (5%)
Price: € 19.00 - 50cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Recioto della Valpolicella Classico shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, impenetrable to light. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of black cherry, blueberry, vanilla, pink pepper, tamarind, mace, cinnamon and chocolate. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet and tannic attack, however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. This Recioto della Valpolicella Classico ages for 12 months in barrique followed by 12 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Chocolate, Dried fruit tarts, Hard and piquant cheese



Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito 2007, Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino di Montefalco Passito 2007
Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Sagrantino
Price: € 25.00 - 375ml Score: Wine that excels in its category
This Sagrantino di Montefalco shows a deep ruby red color and nuances of ruby red, impenetrable to light. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, plum and dried violet followed by aromas of black cherry, vanilla, chocolate, cinnamon, pink pepper, tobacco, mace and nail polish. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a tannic and sweet attack, however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is persistent with flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. This Sagrantino di Montefalco ages for 12 months in cask followed by 16 months of aging in bottle.
Food Match: Fruit desserts, Confectionery, Hard cheese



Sagrantino di Montefalco Chiusa di Pannone 2006, Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Sagrantino di Montefalco Chiusa di Pannone 2006
Antonelli San Marco (Umbria, Italy)
Grapes: Sagrantino
Price: € 29.00 Score:
Sagrantino di Montefalco Chiusa di Pannone shows an intense ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, little transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of blackberry, black cherry and violet followed by aromas of plum, blueberry, tobacco, vanilla, pink pepper, chocolate, cinnamon, leather, mace and menthol. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing roundness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of blackberry, plum and black cherry. Sagrantino di Montefalco Chiusa di Pannone ages for 21 months in cask, 3 months in cement tanks and for 2 years in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Roasted meat, Stewed and braised meat, Hard cheese



Sant'Antimo Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice 2007, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Sant'Antimo Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice 2007
Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese Grosso (70%), Malvasia Nera (30%)
Price: € 24.00 - 50cl Score: Wine that excels in its category
Sant'Antimo Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice shows a deep amber color and nuances of amber yellow, moderate transparency. The nose denotes intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas that start with hints of raisin, dried fig and caramel followed by aromas of black cherry jam, date, chocolate, honey, date, vanilla, tobacco and nail polish. The mouth has good correspondence to the nose, a sweet and round attack, however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is persistent with flavors of raisin, dried fig and black cherry jam. Sant'Antimo Vin Santo Occhio di Pernice ferments and ages in "caratelli" barrels for 5 years.
Food Match: Dried fruit tarts, Hard cheese



Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2006, Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara 2006
Tenute Silvio Nardi (Tuscany, Italy)
Grapes: Sangiovese
Price: € 50.00 Score:
Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara shows a brilliant ruby red color and nuances of garnet red, moderate transparency. The nose reveals intense, clean, pleasing, refined and elegant aromas which start with hints of black cherry, plum and violet followed by aromas of blueberry, raspberry, blackberry, vanilla, tobacco, cinnamon, cocoa, leather and menthol. The mouth has excellent correspondence to the nose, a tannic attack and however balanced by alcohol, full body, intense flavors, pleasing crispness. The finish is very persistent with long flavors of plum, black cherry and raspberry. Brunello di Montalcino Vigneto Manachiara ages for 18 months in barrique, 12 months in cask and more than one year in bottle.
Food Match: Game, Stewed and braised meat, Roasted meat, Hard cheese






 Editorial  Share this article   Share on Google+   Summary of Wine Tasting column Events 
  Wine Tasting Issue 116, March 2013   
Wine and TerroirWine and Terroir Wines of the MonthWines of the Month  Contents 
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