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Regional Studies
Discussions about Soil, Rocks and Wine with Max Marriott
Monday, 27th July, 2009  - David Farmer
Max Marriott with his "canine companion Kila who has a fiendish obsession for rabbits".

I have written a lot about the topic of 'terroir' and was recently asked by Max Marriot, landscape photographer and specialist writer, to offer some thoughts about geology, wine and the like. This was to help with an article he was commissioned to do for the New Zealand Grape Grower.

I thought it might make this rather dry topic rather more fun if I just published in sequence the exchange between us and to finish with Max's article which I think is outstanding. Three quite long emails I sent have not been edited and I've left them that way as they seem to capture a bit more of the urgency and pressure I felt under to send a meaningful reply.

Sent: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 5:54 AM
To: david@glug.com.au
Subject: soil, geology and wine that rocks

Hi David,
My name is Max Marriott and I'm a friend of Dave Brookes (Teusner) who passed on your email address to me. Dave posted an interesting topic on the Winestar Forum some months ago that involved soil - but particularly geology - of the Barossa and surrounds. He stated that he'd been traipsing around with your good self, an ex-geologist whom he said was now in wine retail. I'd just be really keen to have a chat over the phone (do you have a landline I can contact you on today?), only briefly, about geology and such for an article I'm writing for NZ Grape Grower magazine. If you're available, that would be terrific, and if not perhaps we could even just correspond over email.

Thanks David and look forward to hearing from you,
Max Marriott

To: 'Max Marriott'
Sent: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 11:28 a.m.
Subject: RE: soil, geology and wine that rocks

Dear Max,
I'm at my desk now so fire off what you have in mind and we perhaps can talk later in the day. I need to know your 'angle' so I can help if possible. If you go to our site Glug -hit Wine-then scroll down to 'regional studies and terroir' you will find quite a lot on NZ regions-also elsewhere on the site some observations I've made about the Gimblett gravels have enormous relevance to this debate. All of this may help you. First let me know your specific ideas. Regards
David Farmer

Hi David,

Thanks for the prompt response. I've had the chance to quickly peruse your website and skim some of your articles.

The angle of the article is an attempt to explain the validity of how soil and geology influence the quality and character of grapevines and the wine produced from their fruit. Firstly, a statement from yourself about how you interpret soil and geology having an effect on the grapevine/wine would be great. Also, a quick summary of your background would also be beneficial.

As you mention in one of your articles, the soils/geology romance is often used more for the purpose of marketing and mystique than anything else. People like Richard Smart and David Saayman are skeptics, proclaiming that there is no scientific evidence for soil/geology having any direct influence on wine and, while this may technically be true, the lack of scientific evidence doesn't mean that there is no influence; simply that we are yet to understand it.

I'm a huge rock hound and I love this sort of stuff, so I'm biased in favour of soils/geology, though my discussions with other people already seem to have concluded that unless the geology and/or parent material has had some role in the formation of the soil, than it's unlikely the geology has an effect in that circumstance. Men like Seguin and Pomerol conducted research in the late '80s that concluded the physical properties of soil in particular are responsible for a vine's character and habit, and I tend to lean in favour of the hydrology argument too. Then there is the minerality buzzword too, which invokes all kinds of different responses from people - Andrew Jefford smashing rocks in France and smelling the exact compounds released from these rocks as those aromas in the wine.

So I'd be interested to hear your response to that discussion as well and anything else you would care to add.
Cheers! Max.
PS. The nature of the discussion doesn't need to be focused specifically on NZ, for what it's worth.

13th May, 2009.
Thoughts for Max Marriot on Geology and Soils. Part 1.

Dear Max,
This is the start of some free flowing thoughts to open up discussion. Some of this will be repetitive and is uncorrected etc and has arguments leading nowhere. I have been inching towards writing what I currently feel and really the questions you ask are for the first time forcing me to explain where I currently sit. Here goes.

I find it helpful to imagine back to when vines were planted in new colonies with root stock from old Europe (mostly France I imagine but cuttings would have come from Spain , Madeira, Portugal and I suppose Italy, possibly Germany). The vines were planted around the first settlements and while the new colonists were aware of the climate where the cuttings perhaps came from they took what they found. Thus in Australia we planted in the Hunter which has no counterpart in Europe. We planted not on finding a similar climate but on where they settled. There was no other way. And certainly no thought was given to similar soils or geology though they may have thought there was a link. The idea of terroir probably goes back a long way but as modern usage I think it is quite recent and books prior to the 1939 and indeed later into the 1960-'s do not refer to this concept (as a word). But they would have had some notions from the old world about some areas being better for vines than others. Many quite learned books relate back to 1850-1880's etc

So in Australia the result is naturally vines planted in warm climate areas as most of the country is warm. So what is, is what happened. We have the Barossa-unique flavours, ultra hot Swan Valley, Hunter, McLaren Vale etc. They did as well plant some cooler areas, the Yarra, Geelong and small amounts in the Adelaide Hills and Eden Valley. Clare is the all time great oddity. Only much later after say 1960 did we consciously set out to imitate old world areas with climate data such as degree days. We started with Padthaway, Drumborg, the Great Southern etc. Later still Tasmania and high altitude areas.

I suppose the point is that with todays knowledge if Australia was just being founded and we went rigidly with old world data some of our best regions would not be planted and we would not have Grange. So there is a huge limit to what can be transferred. Certainly old world geology tells us nothing. The thin crust in which plants grow -the soil, and the regolith-is very different to the old world because the surface is in general so much older (no glaciations being the principal reason). Thus to look at Champagne and say let's find a site like that in Australia cannot be done as we have no limey chalk deposits in the right climate zone. Yet we make quite good sparkling wines off radically different rocks and thus soils-this tends to move me to think that the geology and the soils of Europe do not help in where to plant a vineyard in Australia. This I know is the bleeding obvious but lets see where this goes.

Only in the most general terms is old world data useful. For example in France many good to great wines are associated with chalk and limestone's. This has enthused some Californians to look for vineyards with a limestone geology-also a few in New Zealand. We now see this is too restrictive, useful if it's in the right climate Zone but not to worry if it's not. Thus the influence of geology must be very minor or be zero.

Now we can do the reverse and say if the new world was the old world and we were now planting Europe for the first time with all the knowledge we now have where would we go. In my belief it would be a long time before someone said-what about draining the cobbled marshes along the Gironde.

This reasoning is what makes me so enthralled by New Zealand. Before our eyes we have watched in the last 20 year or so three or four world class areas open up. We have a tiny scrap of country deep down in a vast ocean making great wines. The soils are for the most part derived as glacial outwash and are young. There is no evidence of a geology influence, and I argue much of it is an experiment - one step removed from hydroponic farming. The Gimbletts are a very special experiment in this. For me NZ explains very well what are the major reasons for complex grape flavours. Major weather patterns, variable local patterns such as heat being trapped (eg Gimbletts), with what the plant is growing in having a very minor role. See the vines at the ocean end of the Wairau-they are on beach deposits.

So its how water is delivered to the plant-that's important, and in some cases to do this in the most favourable way a slope is important eg Burgundy. Not too much not too little- must be just right. Again what has been learnt in the Gimbletts is profound as the plant needs supplements to grow.

13th May, 2009.
Thoughts for Max Marriot on Geology and Soils. Part 2

Dear Max,
I start part two with some background about how I developed my interest in this debate about terroir. I graduated from the Univ of Tasmania in 1973 as a geologist (and botanist) and worked for about 10 years travelling the world as a base metal geologist (versus oil geologist). Anything to do with soils or the regolith, or landscapes was never on my mind - as a working geologist the stuff that covered the rocks was an irritant. I began to see otherwise when working in WA in 1972-1974 but the current interest dates to much later and I really had to relearn my geology.

In the great collapse of the first oil boom 1973? I left geology and started with my brother a wine business in Canberra called Farmer Bros (June 1975). All thoughts of geology were gone and books packed away. Many times I went to Coonawarra and was wined and dined, and sometimes they showed me vineyards and talked about the soils. Most of what I was told about the soil and how the rocks were formed seemed wrong to me and over time I developed a resolve to one day go to Coonawarra and map it all. I also thought I could perhaps make a contribution to the rocks, soils, wine, taste debate (terroir) and at the time would have believed that there was likely to be a connection back to geology.

I did some work on Coonawarra from about 1996 on but it was in 1999? that I mapped it in great detail and this paper was published in 2001. (see Glug where there is a copy) (The red soils of Coonawarra-Aust and NZ Wine Journal). I enjoyed that so much that I continued mapping the great south east of SA and into Victoria trying to further understand rocks and soils. This is an ongoing project.

About 2002 I wanted to apply what I was learning to a new area and selected the Barossa Valley because it is vastly different and far more complex than what I had done. I presented a paper about what I had learnt last year and Brooks picked it up. Work continues on this project. All of this is done as a hobby and I find it fun. I moved to the Barossa to start a new business in 2004. So to attempt to answer one of your questions in a short way, "The angle of the article is an attempt to explain the validity of how soil and geology influence the quality and character of grapevines and the wine produced from their fruit. Firstly, a statement from yourself about how you interpret soil and geology having an effect on the grapevine/wine would be great." - I find difficult to do apart from saying that the cornerstone of terroir [I was refering here to the meaning of terroir as it is defined] is wrapped in soils yet as I said in part 1 the connection is very vague and to date I have not been able to relate it back to geology.

Probably there is no connection back to geology. I have wanted to believe but the science of my own observations has led me in the opposite direction. What we can say is that the vine will produce finer grapes in this environment here than that environment there. Part of that is how it is growing so the soil texture will play a role and how it accesses water. (I return to this later) Thus I must disappoint by saying "You cannot say if we have this bedrock with this soil we will get this taste anywhere in the world-I actually think every vineyard area is unique. Some are so unique that the flavours make great wine". So I think you should be very careful about exposing yourself to a definite stand.

"The angle of the article is an attempt to explain the validity of how soil and geology influence the quality and character of grapevines and the wine produced from their fruit." With that said I found at Coonawarra that the red soils make better wine than the adjoining black soils. There was a paper studying this published in 2000? Which showed berry sizes altered from the black to red soils. So this is due to how the plant grows. The red soils drain differently. I also made some observations about sherry district but have not been there to verify what is commonly believed. I wrote the following; And lastly the emphasis on the special soils and underlying bedrock that are needed to make sherry is quite striking. It is not only this book but all those about sherry who make a strong connection between the white chalky albariza soils and the highest wine quality. While many contemporary books relate the importance of rocks and soil to wine quality the evidence for this is meagre and only two instances come to mind where the connection may be proven these being the white soils of Jerez and the red soils of Coonawarra. ( in a review of Jeffs book on sherry)

I also do think there are other areas where the connection to the soil exists-thus in some regions of the Barossa sandy soils relate back to better wines often Grenache. They also believe this in McLaren Vale.

15th May, 2009.
Thoughts for Max Marriot on Geology and Soils.
Dear Max,

Part 3.
I hope the first two parts have helped get you thinking. I work out of the Veritas winery in the Barossa owned by Rolf Binder. He makes three or four quite famous Barossa reds. Two of these come from vineyards just behind the winery and they are Hanisch and Heysen (these are the vineyard names as well)-both shiraz from vineyards about 50-100 metres apart and they are very different wines. For all intents and purposes made the same way although they have different oak treatments. There are differences in the soils and Heysen is further up the hill though they were both planted at the same time from the same clone. Why are they different? Not in some vast dramatic way as they are after all warm climate shiraz but enough to make you puzzled. Is the change in climate from that small distance apart and how the plants get water and nutrients because of small soil differences enough to explain why they taste different or is there some important piece of the puzzle staring back at us and we cannot see it? Alas the rows of vines are 90 degrees different so I reluctantly come to the conclusion that there are enough changes for the wines to be different even though the vineyards are close together. Look at it another way. Hanisch comes only from the last 12 rows of shiraz vines at the northern end of the block-so lets say 1-12 rows make the grade but rows 13 on going south do not make the grade. Rolf worked out decades ago that the shiraz at the northern end made the good stuff but even he will concede that there is no line between row 12 and 13 it's a gradation of quality. So the science to me shows more and more that soil as such and geology fades more and more into the background. If we see this soil over this sort of bedrock we can be certain it will have this sort of taste just does not happen.

You know in a funny way this is even more exciting than an absolute such as the comment above as it leads me to the remarkable conclusion that there are so many subtle variables that every vineyard and parts of vineyards are indeed unique-and think of all the places still to be planted with vine (across Asia etc) Who knows what wonderful tastes will be found. And with 10,000 varieties of vines imagine finding just that perfect setting for a variety that at the moment we see as undistinguished.

That is why I'm in such awe of New Zealand. Marlborough and sauvignon blanc just linked together in some special alchemy and drinkers across the globe now get a fabulous pleasure at a very fair price I might add. NZ is the most important growing experiment we have ever seen and to have so many world class regions is a remarkable phenomenon. And it tells me that weather -which after all offers a million variables across a growing season is the prime source of taste differences. (I exclude for the moment genes etc) Look how chardonnay changes its flavor profile as it moves from hot to warm to cool climates-simply remarkable.

Back to soils-I've mentioned Coonawarra and Jerez. We know sand effects quality in the Barossa but my thinking then shifts to why and the conclusion I have come to is as follows. When it rains in the Barossa the red clayey soils cannot absorb the moisture quick enough and it starts to run off. What you want is regulated light rain just at the pace it can be soaked up-well this mostly does not happen-but with the sandy top soils (these are wind blown in origin) the rain is soaked up easily and has more of a chance to filter down into the red earths. Its also why I like cobbled soils as they are porous and I suspect when a rain drop hits a rock it busts into a thousand tiny drops-mist like- which are more likely to soak into the soil.

It's funny too how we cultivate our land as we destroy terroir as well but make a new one with deep ripping and contouring. They do this in Coonawarra to bust up the subsurface calcrete layer and I accuse them of busting up their terroir.

Andrew Jefford came to see me the other day and I'm not sure what he thinks now. We all want to believe the soil geology thing as it makes such a good story but when you think about it that is to easy. What we have is infinitely more subtle. Then I came across an article about some blokes in WA at the Uni. who are fingerprinting each vineyard district by using mass spectrometry for 60 trace elements in wine and say they can tell each district apart as these would have to depend on the soil composition to end up in the grape. They say; "They are now building up a database of wines from around the world. Once completed it will be possible to identify the origin of an unknown wine sample by comparing its fingerprint to those in the database. 'We aim to reliably place a wine within 20km of its origin,' said Watling."

I bet they cannot but it offers the intriguing possibility than some taste elements come from different soils. Are we missing something? Then of course can we possible taste these tiny changes -probably not. We kid ourselves most times anyway when we taste wine. Part of the fun really. Hope some of this helps
Regards David

16/5/09 Hi David,

I've been waiting anxiously for each installment as they've come through!

Thanks for your input. It's been a good read and you bring up some sobering issues and points.

I know the Veritas winery well. Rolf Binder is a bit of a legend in your parts. One of my best mates was working at Turkey Flat and now works at Kabminye (Craig Butcher - married to Ilona Glastonbury) and, funnily enough, another one of my best mates has just finished vintage at Henschke and is making his way over to Central in a few days. I've only been over to the Barossa a couple times in the last two years, but it's a great place (the salt chocolate at the farmer's market holds a special place in my heart…).

I will spend the weekend compiling a draft and I'll run any quotes (and poetic license I use…) by you to check your quotes for grammar, accuracy, etc.

In the meantime, I don't suppose you have any pertinent photos you think would be relevant to the article that I could reference you for?

Cheers for now,

Max.

3/6/09 final from Max
From: Wine Technology New Zealand, June-July 2009

Soils Geology -and wine that rocks. Max Marriot.

Grapegrowers like to preach about it, winemakers think they can taste it, and wine marketers write hyperbole about it. But is there really a tangible connection between the unseen, underground world of rocks and soil and the characteristics and qualities in wine? There is considerable anecdotal and empirical evidence worldwide that would suggest a strong correlation between the type of soil grapevines grow in and the corresponding flavours, textures and aromatics of the wine. However, little research has been conducted (partly due to the scope of such an undertaking) and there is certainly no scientific proof. Yet.

It's the sort of topic that polarises opinion and yes, before you start knowingly shaking your head, there is overlap to the terroir debate. There are Old World vignerons who swear on their ancestors' graves that 'site specificity' is real and you only have to walk their vineyards to actually see the change in soil type within identical blocks and then taste the difference in the wines they craft. On the flipside, a selection of wine scholars around the globe argue that soil plays only a secondary role, placing much more emphasis on climate and canopy management. They certainly lend no credence to the premise of geology having an impact, nor the notion of mineral characteristics or any such thing being derived from rocks.

Mike Weersing of Pyramid Valley Wines in the Waikari district of North Canterbury has had the privilege to work in vineyards and wineries all over the world. As a proponent of soils and geology having a strong influence on wine, Weersing has drawn on his experience to make some philosophical comparisons.

"Everything in the Old World from good producers is predicated to letting the soil speak, letting the soil show. In the New World, we say 'yeah, but if you change winemaker, yield, viticulture, etc, the soil becomes such a small part that it's probably meaningless'.

"I think that the single biggest difference - the reason why Europeans know and believe in the influence of soil - is based on their desire to express their sites. In the New World we want to express varietal character," says Mike.

"There are some very basic patterns; there are certain kinds of soil that have a consistent imprint on the wines grown from them. You can defy that imprint if you choose to. This is why most New World winemakers and grape-growers think that soil has no impact; because it can be overridden. But that doesn't mean it's not there. The reason soil shows more precisely and convincingly in Europe is because that's what they want to show." "I've worked around Europe with a lot of growers who emphasise terroir and who work deliberately to allow differences of site and soil to show in their wines. Patterns then emerge. From my time in the Mosel, Alsace and Burgundy, you see consistent soil types and consistent impacts on the soils grown from them. The European sensibility is that limestone provides structure - not just more tannin (though it can be), but a kind of density; a rigour that takes time to soften. There is absolute agreement that wines grown on limestone take longer to come round. They age better, or age longer, or require more time to show what they have. Pinot is a thin-skinned variety where the seed-to-skin ratio is tipped towards seed; because it makes light, perfumed wines, the extra structure that limestone confers is valuable," Mike says.

The idea of a winemaker's intent to allow the soil and geology to talk is an interesting one. This is the approach that Mike Weersing takes, ensuring that his winemaking is invisible and transparent, to fully expose the pure expression of place. It's hard to ignore the fact that even though men like Weersing may be a minority, their products speak louder than words, with an uncannily high, exponential ratio for some of the most interesting wines in the world. Surely that must count for something; you think, you act, you are.

I spoke to Professor Robert White of the University of Melbourne; the author of "Soils for Fine Wines" and "Understanding Vineyard Soils", hoping that he could shed some light on some of the more technical mechanics of what really goes on under the ground.

"We have the 'wine technical' approach on one hand, and the wine marketing approach on the other. The more popular idea is that soils can influence wine character. There is quite a lot written by wine writers and vineyard managers or owners, but it's usually not based on any scientific analysis; it's usually based on their assessment of the flavour and aroma of the wines. I'm not an expert in that area - I don't have very good sensory tasting and I'm no Master of Wine or anything like that - but people like Max Allen write quite confidently about the soil influence and the sense of place. I've been in correspondence with David Schildknecht, one of Robert Parker's team, who certainly believes that there are soil influences on wine character in the Old World."

"The reason why there isn't a lot of progress lies with the abundance of variables and their interactions. If you want to look at a particular factor - like manganese or calcium - you have to eliminate the other variables. This is easier said than done. I prefer, as a working hypothesis, that adverse mineral nutrition may give the wines different characters. I also support the French view that water in the soil - its rate of release and drainage - has a very important effect on the maturation of the grape and the character of the wine."

This French view that White refers to has its roots with two French researchers some thirty years ago; Seguin and Pomerol, and more recently van Leeuwen. They concluded that the chemical properties of soil failed to demonstrate any links (though recent experiments show that soil chemistry can in fact trigger gene expression and hormonal responses in grapevines), but the physical properties - namely the structure and inherent hydrology of the soil - were determining factors across different vineyard sites. Countless papers over the past half century have been published that support this theory.

Thus, the geological influence is somewhat obscured and indirect because it acts through the soil forming process. David Farmer, a geologist who now lives in the Barossa Valley working in wine retail, presented some pragmatic arguments on the soil/geology dogma.

"The cornerstone of terroir is wrapped in soils, yet the connection is very vague and to date I have been unable to relate it back to geology. In all likelihood there is no connection to geology. I have wanted to believe otherwise but the science of my own observations has led me in the opposite direction."

"What we can say is that the vine will produce finer grapes in this environment here, than that environment there. This relates to how the vine grows, so the soil texture and water access will play a role. You cannot say that if we have this bedrock with this soil we will get this taste (anywhere in the world). I actually think every vineyard area is unique. Some are so unique that the flavours make great wine."

Farmer also added some sobering thoughts to the Old World and New World discussion.

"I find it helpful to imagine back to when vines were planted in new colonies with rootstocks from Europe. We planted in the regions where we settled and no thought was given to the climates or soils of the Old World. With today's knowledge, if Australia was just being founded and we went rigidly with Old World data, some of our best regions would not be planted and we wouldn't have Grange.

"Now we can do the reverse and say if the New World was the Old World and we were now planting Europe for the first time, with all the knowledge we now have where would we go? In my belief it would be a long time before someone would suggest draining the cobbled marshes along the Gironde.

"This reasoning is what makes me so enthralled by New Zealand. Before our eyes we have watched in the last 20 years as three or four world class areas have opened up. We have a tiny scrap of country deep down in a vast ocean making great wines. The soils are for the most part derived as glacial outwash and are young. There is no evidence of a geology influence and I argue much of it is an experiment - one step removed from hydroponic farming. The Gimblett Gravels are a very special case in point. For me, New Zealand explains very well the major reasons for complex grape flavours; major weather patterns and variable local patterns (such as heat traps like the Gimblett Gravels), rather than the soil."

"So it's how water is delivered to the plant that's most important, and in some cases to do this in the most favourable way a slope is important (like in Burgundy). Not too much, not too little - it must be just right," says David Farmer.

The common theme here focuses on water within the soil profile; not only rates of water storage and drainage but how water moves - the effects of suction, gravity, porosity, permeability and so forth. So, does it then stand to reason that two soils with identical or very similar hydrology could have totally different mineral constituents and still engender wines of like characteristics? While there is wide acceptance that hydrology is a determining factor, it's but one piece of a larger puzzle affording only a glimpse of clarity for a question that may very well remain unanswered for the duration of our lives. In closing, let's go back to Mike Weersing who aptly summarises the status quo and his desire to let sleeping dogs lie, "There is no scientific proof that soil type or geology directly influences or impacts the way that a wine tastes or smells. In general when we talk about the influence that a soil has, we're often talking about shape in the mouth, or architecture, or the ability of the wine to age. Nobody has made a massive effort to try and understand why a wine that grows on sandstone next to a wine that grows on limestone is so different (when the winemaking and viticulture are the same).We don't know whether it's vine physiology, whether its root physiology, whether it's the chemical makeup of the soil, the physical structure of the soil, hydrology, or whatever.

But it doesn't really matter to me that we don't understand why it happens - just because we don't understand it, doesn't mean that it doesn't happen. It almost pleases me that there are still great mysteries in the world of wine."

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How Does Soil and Rocks Influence the Taste of Wine?

Wednesday, 19th May, 2010

My studies have lead me to the conclusion that the chemistry of the soils and rocks in which the vine grows add little if anything to the taste of wine. Wine does not show a taste that can be related back to primary or secondary minerals in the soils and weathered rocks. The soils and rocks do though have an important bearing on how necessary nutrients are taken up by the vines and most specifically how the vine gains access to water. This does affect the taste in a major way. more...

Discussions about Soil, Rocks and Wine with Max Marriott

Monday, 27th July, 2009

I have written a lot about the topic of 'terroir' and was recently asked by Max Marriot, landscape photographer and specialist writer, to offer some thoughts about geology, wine and the like. This was to help with an article he was commissioned to do for the New Zealand Grape Grower. more...

In the Footsteps of Colonel Light

Wednesday, 10th June, 2009

I have spent many a happy day wandering the hills and vales pondering how the Barossa landscape formed. An area of great interest is Rocky Gully that runs down from the eastern edge of the Eden Valley into the Barossa Valley. This gully makes no sense to me as it seems to be much bigger than the tiny stream that drains it could possibly have created. more...

An Expression of Unusual New Zealand Terroir

Wednesday, 1st April, 2009

The Chaytor family were early Marlborough settlers (1830-40?) and had grazing properties that spanned country from north of Blenheim at Spring Creek through to Picton. One of these properties, possibly 'Marshlands', near Spring Creek, is now part of the extensive vineyard, Shepherds Ridge, of 73 hectares. Alas I do not have firsthand experience of the Shepherds Ridge vineyard. Wine reviews have been very favourable with many wines scoring 90 plus. more...

On One Hand Terroir Gets Bigger - On the Other it's Taken Away

Saturday, 6th September, 2008

The concept of 'terroir' or a sense of place that it is said may be reflected in the taste of a wine is now embedded in the psyche of French wine makers and many disciples world-wide. It was not always so as there is little mention of this concept until the 1970's though it can be argued that it encapsulates the idea of single vineyards as represented for example by the 1855 Bordeaux left bank grading. more...

Specific Site or Blending?

Sunday, 22nd June, 2008

If you believe what wine writers everywhere are telling us you would come to the conclusion that the very best wines are always site specific. By this they mean you must be able to see the vineyard which produced the grapes and coupled with this they may discuss how the wine expresses the terroir of the site. more...

Buying Wines That Have a Sense of Place

Friday, 11th April, 2008

Currently a number of wine writers are emphasising that wines with a sense of place taste better, or those that express terroir have the true taste of wine. Indeed I gather they are saying that they can detect a wine with a sense of place from drinking it. more...

An Update on the Unfathomable Idea - Terroir

Wednesday, 3rd October, 2007

The idea that the site, the location and aspect, of the vineyard and its exposure to the elements of climate will affect the taste of the grapes and hence the wine seems so obvious as to be hardly worth debating. Any owner of a vineyard whether it is flat as a tack in the Australian Riverland or clinging to a slope in a cool climate region will tell you that part of the vineyard always produces superior fruit to the rest. The famous region of Burgundy has known for five hundred years that parts of its golden slope produce better wines than the rest. more...

Geology Cannot be Found In Wine

Thursday, 18th September, 2006

An aspect of marketing is to tell the story about the product and to enhance the story it can be a good idea to weave in a myth, a mystery or some 'undefined' extra element. The idea is to create for the consumer an emotional bond with the product that goes beyond the mere utility of the product. more...

Terroir - Can It Possible Shine Through the Background Noise

Tuesday, 4th July, 2006

It seems to make sense that the taste of a wine reflects where it is grown. After all Barossa wines do have different aromas and flavours to Tasmanian wines. The French use the term 'terroir' to describe the differences that refect the sense of place where the grapes are grown. more...

Wine Quality: Does Terroir Matter?

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Olivier Gergaud from the University of Reims and Victor Ginsburgh (pictured) of the Université Libre de Bruxelles deserved better than the couple of smart headlines they attracted when they presented a paper at the UK Royal Economic Society annual conference in Nottingham in March this year. The Sunday Observer declared "French bitter over wine study" and Decanter magazine on its website summarised that "Terroir plays no role". But apart from a reference or two on wine web sites that was the extent of the references that I found on Google for the paper Natural endowments, production technologies and the quality of wines in Bordeaux. Does terroir matter? Yet the Gergaud and Ginsburgh paper is one of the more significant contributions yet made to the debate about the comparative impact of terroir and wine making skills on the wine we drink. A look at the Observer's and Decanter's coverage of the story perhaps provides a clue to the overall paucity of the coverage. more...

Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines

Friday, 14th October, 2005

Any vineyard owner will tell you that certain areas of their vineyard make better tasting grapes than other areas. Why some areas of vineyards and vineyard districts deliver better grapes and hence better wine is the subject of terroir studies. The Europeans and particularly the French are very interested in this topic. They extend the meaning of the word which we can roughly say is the flavour effects that come from the vineyard location to include cultural ideas which unite man with the soil. more...




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