Don't Call It Minerally: Geologists Call Bull On Terroir


Last week I talked about the wine concept of terroir in this post (noting that the wine bar of the same name is closed for a month).

Well, the subject of terroir and the fierce debate that rages around it comes up again in a new AP article, reporting on a conference of wine-loving geologists in Oregon. Terroir is of course the untranslatable French wine term describing the total growing environment—climate, exposure, soil, weather—of a grape vine. Well-made wines from good sites, the French believe, will taste specifically, uniquely of their site. Scientific-oriented Americans love to call bull on this so-called "romantic" point of view (see the AP article).

For one, it's headline—"Geologists debunk soil impact on wine at Ore. talk"—is more agressively definitive than the details contained within. The article reports that scientists say that the taste of terroir "may be imagined" and "is below the threshold of human taste and smell." A geologist named Alex Maltman says " whatever 'minerality' in wine is, it is not the taste of vineyard minerals." However, he also hedges, "I am not saying that chemistry and geology have no effect on the wine. It may have effects that we don't understand." So admitting a lack of understanding of something seems a far cry from "debunking" to this writer. (And "Maltman?" Malt + Man seems to prove that this guy prefers beer to wine, anyway.)

Whether or not you can taste soil or minerals in wine, there can be note that there is a mineral-like sensation in some wines. Don't believe me? Try this wine, only $30 at K&L, which I just had last night.

2006 Deux Montille Pernand-Vergelesses Blanc 1er Cru "Sous Frétille"
Winemaker Etienne de Montille was just in town last week doing a blowout dinner at RN74, so it's fitting that we should be able to find such a wine this week at such a good deal. This wine is racy, bursting with coiled energy. You taste white flowers, citrus peel and apples and on the tongue is that bewitching, captivating texture of dissolved minerals. Whether that character comes from the famed chalky soil of Burgundy or someone else, who knows? I just know it's good.

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