WineArt #7 A Grape Decision

Have you ever stopped to think why Sancerre is only planted with Sauvignon Blanc, or Chablis with Chardonnay, and Pommard and Volnay with only Pinot Noir? And outside France we have Nebbiolo in Piedmont, and Albariño in Rias Baixas. There are many other examples even from New World wines such as Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc across New Zealand, and Pinot Noir again in Oregon’s Williamette Valley. How often do we ask for a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon or a South African Chenin Blanc in a wine bar, a very focused and specific request?

Sauvignon Blanc in Sancerre, France

The answer lies in the terroir, the total environment in which the grape is being asked to grow. The grape decides whether to grow and thrive or not, whether to ripen early or late, or sometimes not at all. It has got its roots firmly planted in the soil, drawing on minerals and water from below to feed its hungry shoots and leaves. It’s leaves depend on the sun, as do it’s fruit. Is it getting enough of what it needs, not too much, not too little. Does it get cold at night or during the daytime from winds? Tricky business!

Pinot Noir, Pommard, France

From one perspective it is the grape itself that decides everything on its journey from soil to vine to barrel to bottle. If it isn’t happy at every stage no matter how skilful the winemaker, it just won’t play ball! Even after picking and being taken into the winery each grape needs treating reverently, the right temperature, left on the skins or not, left on the lees or not, fermentation, how long in barrel or steel tank before bottling. The grape will decide whether to respond positively. More and more winemakers around the world are recognising and understanding this relationship between grape/vine and terroir, the total environment even including the winery. It isn’t just a French fetish! Leave well alone and let it do it’s own thing has become the maxim. So when you order or pour your next glass, choose wisely, choose a wine from where you know the winemaker has cared for his vine, and lastly, thank the grape for making the journey!

Categories: Wine, wineart

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8 replies

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I learned first hand about the importance of the winemaker when I spent a few weeks in the Rias Baixas area of northern Spain and was invited to a tasting at one of the vineyards there. I’d never enjoyed an Albariño so much as I did then and it is high on my list of favourite white wines. And my, doesn’t it go well with shellfish from the region. I get really cross in a bar when I’m asked if I’d prefer a Malbec or a Merlot? From where? Not the jammy Malbecs or the over-heavy Merlots from South America but a good – and it goes without saying, expensive – Malbec from France is still a classy drink before you consider the vintage.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. How do you feel about natural wines?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never tasted any, but the prospect of a cloudy and sour wine holds no urge for me to do so 🙃

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know what you mean! I can get behind the philosophy, but everyone I’ve tried has been disappointing.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ve heard that some of them look and taste like cloudy wheat beers! I’m all for trying new things but I’m not prepared to go through such pain to obtain an educated view. 🍷

          Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I feel like what makes a wine stand out in terms of quality is the finesse, balance and harmony it’s able to achieve regardless of the intensity or complexity of its characteristics. Maybe you can get lucky with a natural wine and it comes out interesting, but it’s not “good” because it’s “natural”. Natural is neither good or bad, it just is… or at the very least it can be either good or bad. 🥂

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I wish I knew more about wine; it seems like an enjoyable hobby. But I’m a simple beer guy…

    Liked by 2 people

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