Doet terroir ertoe? Die vraag probeert Roger Morris te beantwoorden voor Wine Enthousiast. Niet iedereen in het wijnvak gelooft in het directe effect van ‘terroir’ op de smaak van een wijn. Onlangs publiceerden wij de opvatting van een bekend geoloog die afrekende met de heilige overtuiging van de ‘terroiristen’. Onzin, er is nog niets aangedragen wat als deugdelijk bewijs kan dienen, was zijn conclusie. Er is ook een stroming wetenschappers die de theorie aanhangt dat het typische terroir juist ontstaat door de aangeplante variëteit. De natuur, bijvoorbeeld het micro-klimaat en het biologische leven in de bodem passen zich dan aan. Dit artikel gaat over de definitie van terroir en over de elementen die de smaak van wijn bepalen.
‘A generation or two ago, many wine drinkers who loved Burgundy considered a slightly funky, barnyard flavor in certain wines as a manifestation of its famed terroir. And it might have been, depending on your definition.
What they tasted was the naturally occurring, yet controversial yeast named Brettanomyces, or “Brett.” Wine purists consider Brett a deadly flaw, but many connoisseurs think, in moderation, it can be a delightful flavor component, especially in red wines.
That disparity of opinion shows how difficult it is to define “terroir.” Practically every winemaker credits terroir as the most important part of winegrowing, yet characterizations of it vary widely.
Until recently, a firm definition seemed unnecessary. At its most broad, terroir represents “a sense of place.”
“The notion of terroir has been with us for more than 1,000 years,” says Chris Howell, wine-grower/general manager at Cain Vineyard in Napa Valley. On occasion, Cain consciously allows Brett to ferment in its wines. “Long before anyone had any idea about labels, brands and marketing, certain wines were identified with where they grew.”
Simple definitions of terroir allow that a vineyard’s soil and climate contribute greatly to a wine’s flavor. Many agree with a catalog of elements listed by Ana Diogo Draper, winemaker at Napa Valley’s Artesa winery: “Soil, climate, sun exposure, slope, row orientation.”
“Being able to identify the major character of your terroir and emphasizing it into your wines is the ultimate objective of a good winegrower,” says Michele Dal Forno, of Dal Forno Romano in the Veneto region of Italy.
But what are the deeper elements of terroir, and how do they affect the composition and the taste of wine? Here are some of the most important considerations.
- *Soil composition: The chemical and physical makeup of the soil, like minerals, rocks and dirt, gives direction to the flavors that grapes produce.
- *Soil surface: The color of the soil affects its ability to absorb or reflect the sun’s heat. Surface stones retain the day’s heat into the evening.
- *Soil drainage: Some vines like extra moisture, while others hate “wet feet.” Generally, winemakers prefer vines be water stressed to produce more concentrated flavors.
- *Vegetation: Grasses and herbs between rows compete with vines for water and nutrients, but can also improve soil, increase biodiversity and help with pest management.
- *Microbial activities: Microscopic beings that are unique to certain locations, like yeasts and bacteria, can affect a wine’s taste.
- *Altitude: Generally, elevated vineyards are cooler, possibly affecting how and when grapes ripen.
High-Altitude Vineyards that are Changing Wine
- *Degree of slope: Steeper slopes drain well and may get stronger sunlight.
- *Aspect: The direction a slope faces affects the amount of sunlight vines planted on it will receive.
- *Coastal or continental: Vineyards near bodies of water usually experience more moderate temperature swings.
- *Heat: Vines flourish in moderate climates, and struggle in arctic and tropical zones.
- *Sunlight and daylight: The more sun a grape gets, the more sugar it produces, which affects the resulting wine’s alcohol levels. Too much can cause sunburned grapes.
- *Precipitation: Moderate rain/snow are necessary for vine growth, or comparable artificial irrigation.
- *Wind: Strong, steady winds can slow the maturation of a grape. When vines flower, wind can also cause fewer bunches to develop.
- *Humidity: Humid climates tend to cause more vine diseases like mildew.
- *Fog: Fog acts as a cooling agent and promotes botrytis in sweet-wine regions.
- *Day/Night temperature fluctuations: Depending on location, daily temperature swings can affect grape maturation.
- *Severe weather: Hail, frost, drought, floods and wildfires are the biggest threats to grape production and vine survival.
The Real Difference Between Cool-Climate and Warm-Climate Wine
When these elements align, they are expressed in what we describe as a wine’s terroir.
Old World winemakers credit their historic terroirs for any distinctive characteristics. But in the past century, New World winegrowers began to produce highly rated wines from soils that have never grown European or Vitis vinifera wine grapes. Can they possess great terroir?
Terroir affects grapes, but how do grapes shape the terroir?
Many grape growers argue that terroir must also include the vines themselves. They say that the great terroir of Burgundy would no longer be as great if it grew Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
“A terroir can bring excellence to life only with a very specific vine,” says Francesco Zonin, of Italy’s Zonin1821.