blind tasting

Blind tasting + current terroir notions

Blind tasting is a rather brilliant skill that requires sagaciousness and phenomenal sensory memory. A dash of good luck doesn't hurt either.

Lately, whenever I blind taste, I'm fascinated with our current terroir associations. A word that encompasses centuries if not millennia of distilling evolutionary & cultural change seems surely marked with modern-day viticultural & enological advances. If I polled 100 sommeliers from around the world and asked them to describe [name a famous worldly region here], I'm certain I would receive succinct, fairly accurate descriptors via their experiences with said region. These adjectives can be stripped down to reflect a genesis worth mentioning: Cultured yeasts, temperature-control, stainless steel, excessive SO2... In reality, the majority of our sensory memories we use to judge and decipher wines are bulked with technological advancements that do anything but shine light on true fields, surroundings, natural/honest cellar practices, and vintage variation. Hmmmm. Is terroir the correct word then?

The above elements of wine making can make for delicious wine no doubt, but a direct reflection of where the fruit/wine is from? Hundreds of years of wisdom collected cum snapshot of a place? Nowadays we're familiar with winemakers having access to great quality organic and biodynamic fruit, fermenting via indigenous yeasts, fermenting/ageing in vessels native to their region (chestnut/acacia/etc.), using less SO2 than in the past, and dealing with warmer climates thus able to pick certain grapes in northerly climates with more consistent, earlier ripening cycles. This is just the tip of the iceberg. Intrinsic winemakers are delivering wines reminiscent of Vouvray but hailing from the Central Coast in California! Is this what California is capable of? Is this the beginnings of new terroir in action in the making? What about the hundreds of producers throughout Europe and beyond crafting the most honest and challenging natural wines of our times that do not reflect terroir based on a mere 50 years of sensory memory but a most pure expression of their land and surroundings and availabilities?

All this to say, I think the word, "terroir" will be even more leaded 100 years from now than it is today and just as yeasts are so intricately distinct from one parcel to the next, there will be thousands more terroirs to distinguish between. Thank you to all the vignerons who farm and live their grapes and vines. Thank you for giving us these thousands of new intricacies to even attempt to discern. We'll need all the luck we can when we decide to brown bag...