Tasting Terroir: How Terroir Influences the Taste of Wine

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In the same way that the same cow would not produce the same milk in Normandy that it would in the Alps, and the same bees would not produce the same honey with lavender that they would with rosemary, wines should be thought of as a reflection of their terroir—the complete natural environment in which they are produced. Therefore, using the right grape in the right area is an important requirement. Just as humans need time to adapt to the local environment when they move, it takes an even longer time for a non-indigenous grape variety to mute and adapt its potential expression to a new climate, soil, etc. That is why, for example, I enjoy above all the California Zinfandel wines (red—not the “blush,” of course). The California Zinfandel grape, widely considered to be an indigenous grape in California, is in fact descended from a strain of grape, originally named Primitivo by the Italians and Crljenak Kaštelanski by the Croatians, which arrived from Europe 150 years ago. Since its arrival in California, the grape has gradually adapted to the climate and soils of the region and is now considered a truly Californian grape. In addition to these key elements—climate and soil—I believe that terroir is also very dependant on the nearby wildlife. If these flora and fauna are killed by pesticides or herbicides in order to develop higher yields, a very important element of terroir will be missing (or lost) by damaging that terroir. In effect, when you have a living, growing area, you will get lots of wildflowers, weeds, etc., all of which contain many expressive yeasts. These yeasts will be passed to the grapes through the winds and also thanks to the all the bugs living around. A living terroir allows worms to break down the humus in the soil into organic food for the root systems, which will grow and develop, producing grapes without needing very many nutrients. Of course, no irrigation and no feeding means that the vines will struggle a bit and eventually produce lower yields but with much better ingredients. Combining better berries with lots of natural yeast is the best mix to produce distinctive wines with high personality. We should never forget that wine is the result of a fermentation between sugar and yeast. When producers spray harsh chemical products to get rid of bugs and weeds, they also kill yeast, and that is why they then need to use industrial yeasts to start their fermentation process, as their indigenous yeasts are not present in high enough quantities. On the other hand, growers who respect their terroir, reaping all its natural ingredients, will get in reward for their efforts beautifully balanced wines tasting like and expressing their terroir. So, the next time you taste wine, try to pinpoint those unique flavors which make you taste and feel the wine’s terroir. Each wine should offer a sense of place unique to its soil. Jean-Marc Espinasse and his wife Kristin own Domaine Rouge Bleu, an organic winery with 20 acres of old vines and a 400-year-old renovated provençal farm. Here are photos of their first vintage. Check their site to see where their wines are available. Grab your own free subscription to BonjourParis & be first to receive Wednesday & Sunday newsletters linked to 50 original stories monthly with travel tips & the latest from France. Since 1995, BonjourParis has been your most complete online France travel & Francophile lifestyle eZine. RSS feed available. If it’s at Amazon.com, you can get it at our Amazon.com Boutique with new items added weekly. Same competitive prices and speedy delivery & your purchases support costs of keeping BonjourParis your most complete online France travel resource. Search hint: start at the back pages for the most recent stock. Be smart! Reserve your hotel at Booking.com…then keep shopping online & if you find a better rate for the same deal, contact Booking.com for your BEST PRICE MATCH GUARANTEE. Bookmark this link & use it everytime you shop so your preferences are stored & deals are updated when you return: Booking.com. One-stop shopping for car rental & international air travel deals: Car rentals at competitive rates, no drop fees & a 5% discount for BonjourParis.com readers who use this link to Auto Europe Car Rental Don’t overlook Auto Europe for international flights, click Auto Europe Flights  
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