Fraud & Terroir
With the report out of Oregon late last month that the Geological Society of America poo pooed the notion that the "Minerally" taste in a wine has anything to do with the minerals in the soils that the wine's grapes were grown, we are once again reminded that the notion of "Terroir" may just be the a fraudulent, if not romantic, idea that marketers and PR types like me like to flog in front of the buying public.
But isn't it really one of the most compelling ideas you can imagine: The wine in your glass that comes from a small, ancient vineyard in Tuscany gives you a connection to that piece of soil because the wine TASTES like that soil. You visit this unique place via your taste buds.
But it just ain't true.
But dispelling the idea that a wine's minerality comes from the minerals in the soils isn't such a big deal. Most thinking people know that's a little bit absurd, especially if they've been reading the literature over the past few years. What would be a big deal is if the idea that the difference between appellations could be tasted in the wines. The fact is, there is not specific "Russian River Valley Pinot Noir " taste. There is no specific "Alexander Valley Chardonnay" taste. This is a myth.
Whether it's an appellation association or a winery telling consumers they can taste the region in their wines, both border on fraud. I'd be willing to bet that if you lined up 10 different Pinots from ten different CA appellations, very few people in the world could correctly identify the appellation of even three of the wines.
That said, I am very attracted to the idea of promoting the special characteristics of small, single vineyard plots. Here is where I think consumers can be led down a path that connects soil and climate to taste in a very direct way. It's at this micro level when the interplay of soil composition, aspect of the land, micro climate, vine density, vine age, cover crop, irrigation routine and winemaker interaction can be explored in detail and some very good estimates can be made on how they affect the final wine.