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Can you taste Terroir?

Apparently there is a bigger discussion going on in the Wine-Blogging-World about the notion Terroir, and the influence of the soil on the wine in general. A somehow provocative article posted on the NYT by Harold McGee and Daniel Patterson meant to clarify on the perception and interpretation of the idea of Terroir.
It firstly stated that it isn’t really possible scientifically speaking that one could taste the type of soil on which the wine has grown within your glass of wine; that many professionals like wine writers, importers and even winemakers would misleadingly suggest that one could taste the slate in the wine if the vines are growing on a slate soil.
Further the authors try to clarify the concept of and analyze all the “components” which makes a certain wine a Terroir-wine and uncovers the influence of Mr Parker and his disciples on Terroir-style. They also observe how many people perceive the whole Terroir concept as a giant marketing hype, which only exists in order to mystify and glorify age-old winemaking traditions in Europe.
Clearly there is a lot to say on the topic and I believe the 2 authors have delivered a thorough article which is a good basis for discussion.
As Eric Asimov wrote in his blog in response to the article, it is of course clear that one doesn’t actually have the taste of limestone in his wine, but if you ever tasted a Chablis and then heard about the soil being composed of million year old mussel-shells, your brain directly links it to the flintstone nose of Chablis. These evocative descriptions have to do with emotions brought up by wine. And I don’t really understand why these authors try to ridicule wine professionals, which isn’t benefiting anyone really. I guess it is just the typical irony of Scientifics and engineers.
Concerning the dissection of the whole Terroir concept, I merely agree with the authors. I believe that the problem with the whole Terroir idea is that it is the subject of a giant misunderstanding. It is such a flexible notion that nearly everyone uses it with another meaning.
So, even if I don’t have so much experience with wine, I will start by giving you my understanding of a Terroir wine. It is a wine that is independent. It doesn’t try to copy another wine (or another Terroir), it has found an optimal balance between the attributes of the soil, the climate and profits from the experience of winemakers within a certain region and is marked by the wine-culture of the region.
The misunderstanding might be that apparently people tend to think that Terroir is something modern, some kind of European marketing strategy against New World Wines, whereas it is exactly the opposite. It is rather old fashioned, something which demands patience and experience, and maybe a hint of stubbornness. The problem is that, as I said before, Terroir can’t be copied.
I would believe for example that a true wine-lover wouldn’t look for some kind of super-Mouton when he discovers Californian wines, but rather for unique and delicate wines which are made in the most appropriate form to represent the attributes of its origins.
Anyway, I urge everyone to read the article, as well as Eric Asimovs posting with many interesting comments.

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