Monday, December 8, 2008

True or false?

I would love to hear your opinion on the topics below. Speak up!

True or false #1: "Terroir makes character; people make quality."

True or false #2: "Grape phenolic maturity is independent of sugar levels and should be achieved even if it means (in a warm area) very high sugar accumulation.Too much alcohol? Not a problem. You can remove it from the finished wine with one of the available techniques for alcohol reduction."

True or false #3: "There’s a major disconnection between what’s been done to improve wine quality and what wine writer’s choose to tell consumers, because they feel that if they tell people what is really going on, then the excitement will go away."

True or false #4: ‘I like it’ is not the same as ‘this wine is good’. Personal taste is one thing, standards of quality which refer to more or less accepted criteria, another.In other words: ‘Good wine is the wine that you like’ is not true by any means.

True or false #5: We are in danger of moving toward universal “styles” of wine that obliterate or significantly blur the all-important regional differences between otherwise similar wines.

True or false #6: Sulphur compounds are often misidentified as “terroir characters”. What it means is that the mineral qualities that we describe in some wines are derived in the winery and not in the vineyard.

True or false #7: Great wines are rare because the great terroirs are rare.


Luiz Alberto, #winelover said...

These are some of the comments posted on the OWC site:

ToF #1: It is supposedly controversial as to whether or not flavors from the soil actually do affect the taste of the grape - maybe a bit of truthiness involved here - we WANT soil to come out in 'mineral' flavors in the wine. But yes, I do agree with this statement. Still, i'd love to hear more about the viniculture of vines about the mineral question. How, exactly, do flavors from the soil make their way into wine? I guess it also depends on what you mean by quality - the quality of the fruit is encouraged by people, but created by the vine as well. Quality in wine is all about people staying out of the way and letting the wine make itself...
Posted by: Shannon Borg

Luiz Alberto, #winelover said...

These are some of the comments posted on the OWC site:

ToF #1: I would say this is false for the following reasons:
1) Terroir does play a part in the flavors the vine imparts to the grapes. However, the viticultural techniques that have been developed can be used to adjust how a vine reacts to a particular site. For example: if you look at the effects of different rootstocks with the same cultivar in the same vineyard (type of soil in the vineyard), you will see a vast difference in vigor of the cultivar, how much salt in the soil the vine can tolerate, etc...each of these produces a different type of stress on the vine which the vine reacts by adjusting the chemistry of the grape.

2) People make wine with varying degrees of quality. You can take great grapes and make bad wine through sloppy cellar protocols, but you can not make great wine from poor grapes. I work at a custom crush facility that is currently making 17 different varietals in small lots (1 ton fermentors). I have seen very different flavor profiles, body, acidity and overall quality of wine produced from the same grapes (literally grapes from the same block picked within hours of each other) based on cellar techniques. For example: the cap management regime used on the grapes has a huge difference between punch downs, submerged cap, pump overs, and any permutation of the above. The timing of each cap management technique during the frementation is critical to make sure you are getting the elements that you want from the grape and not the bad elements (astringent / green tannins).

If the base grapes do not have good flavors, you can not do much about it. You can adjust acidity levels, potential alcohol, flavor concentration through bleeds before the fermentation begins, cold soaking to help develop more fruit flavors....many more examples. However, the overall wine will still be lacking in complex, layered flavors which I consider part of any quality wine.

Regarding the question of minerality, I can look up the chemical pathways that the vine uses for respiration (energy generation) if you want in depth details on it. Magnesium, Potassium and Calcium are key elements in the vine's respiration. By adding in ground limestone, the available calcium, magnesium are made more available and help bring highly acidity soil closer to neutral pH. See the link for more information on liming soil: I also believe that the acidity of the grape must / wine affect how you taste minerality (not sure where I have read that or it is a personal observation). The diurnal temperature changes of grapes affect how much acidity the grape uses for respiration -- the wider the temperature swing, the lower the consumption of acid. Hence, the noticable difference in wines made from cool climate fruit sources such as the Loire, Anderson Valley and Yarra Valley from warm regions such as much of Spain and the southern Rhone Valley.

It takes some Terroir and good cellar practices to make distinctive, quality wine.

Posted by: Leon C. Glover III

Luiz Alberto, #winelover said...

These are some of the comments posted on the OWC site:

ToF #1: There is no doubt about it. Terroir makes character and people make quality.
The right clone of the right varietal on the right soil in the right climate, that's what creates potential character.
Making character show requires a lot more: the right density of vines per acre, the right care for the soil, for the vines, for the foilage, for the grapes, thoughout the year. Hard work. The right decisions, again, throughout the year. The right yields, the right vinification decisions, a bit of luck.
Thoses are conditions that make character show.
In other words: the best wine maker on an mediocre terroir will make better wines with more character than a mediocre wine maker on the best of terroirs.
Hard work and taking risks are the sole keys to masterpieces in wine.
Posted by: Harry Vos

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