This Wine is Smokin’ Good

As I’ve argued before, there simply is no way to argue that smoke taint in a wine brought on by fires during harvest is not a genuine reflection of terroir. That case will be made by more people once more North Coast wines from the 2017 vintage are released to the public. They will, after all, need to be sold.

We have a good example of how this view plays out with the newly released Oregon wines, some of which were impacted by smoke taint from 2017 fires in that more northernly neck of the woods. In a really great article by Hannah Wallace in SevenFifty Daily, we see a number of Oregonians embracing smoke taint in their wines. The best defense comes from Nate Ready of Hiyu Wine Farm:

“The wildfires are totally part of the terroir. That’s what’s so cool about wines—they reflect the culture and the ecosystem. And living in the West, we should get used to it. This is going to be part of the flavor of living in the West.”

I’m personally not a fan of smoke taint in wine. To me, it results in a dramatic layer of something “un-wine” that envelopes the drink and too often dominates to the point of diminishing the varietal character. I like varietal character. In the end, a good wine must reflect its most prominent ingredient, which is not the terroir, but the grape variety.

That said, if you are a terroiriste, it’s hard to argue that the composition of the air that surrounded your vineyard is not a part of the terroir—smoke and all. 


One Response

  1. Paul Vandenberg - June 29, 2018

    Being a devout terroirist must be difficult. Humid, rainy season? Powdery mildew and Bunch Rot as part of your terrior.
    Fires? Oh! Yes! Isn’t the aroma of an ash tray so, so intriguing? So wonderfully authentic!
    I’ve been growing stuff for over 50 years. Sometimes there is a crop failure. I’m really happy that smoke taint didn’t get me here in the Yakima Valley the past vintage. As a winegrower devoted to beautiful wine, I am always prepared to lose a vintage, otherwise it is marketing BS, something I don’t do well at.
    There is a better term than terroir, Mesoclimate.
    Paul Vandenberg
    Paradisos del Sol
    The World’s first Zero Pesticide Vineyard?
    Non believer in anonimity.

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