Brilliance & Terroir
It was, I believe, the great Gore Vidal who once wrote, "Every time a friend of mine succeeds a little part of me dies."
It’s a pretty astute, and brave, commentary on the effects and power of envy.
Some of us bloggers fancy ourselves decent writers. Some of us are mistaken, some close to the mark, other are underestimating their value completely if they think themselves only decent writers. A safe self assessment puts me somewhere between the first two markers.
So while I can’t call Randal Grahm a friend having only met him briefly a couple times, I felt what Gore felt when I read this:
"Terroir, I am hoping to explain, is something like a Platonic form, or perhaps more concretely, a beautifully ordered wave-form that arises from a harmonically attuned vineyard – one wherein every element is in perfect balance. The formal information that is in this special vineyard is preserved, amplified, perhaps refined during the fermentation process of the grapes and emerges by dint of the winemaker’s skill, as the flavor characteristics of the wine. Some as yet unelucidated mechanism involving the minerality of the wine, I believe, acts as a medium to transform this information into a distinctive, unmistakable taste, analogous to the transformation of radio waves into aural sensation."
This is from Grahm’s talk at the recent "Terroir Conference" held at U.C. Davis. He called the talk, "The Phenomenology of Terroir: A Meditation by Randall Grahm." It’s a brilliant presentation of a philosophy of winegrowing with particular emphasis on biodynamics.
Why did a little part of me die? Because Grahm so successfully communicated the spiritual approach to understanding terroir, something I’ve spent some time thinking about but have never been able to come close to explaining it’s importance the way Grahm can in so few words.
Grahm’s translation of the significance of the IDEA of terroir, and the way it has the ability to really call out to wine lovers, into words is brilliant. His speculation on the true purpose of a wine’s minerality is original and beautiful, if not a bit hopeful. And finally, it’s his obvious respect for the mystery of terroir that shows through that I like so much.
If you are interested in the mystery of terroir, Grahm’s paper is must read.There’s a certain amount of spirituality in the meditation that might put you off if you are not so inclined. But try to push on. The complete package comes together in such a way that might finally send Gore home were he to call Randall Grahm a friend.