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News, Notes and Dusty Bottle Items – Personally Speaking Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass …

Prank call, Prank call!

Back in the days of cassette tapes, having a 14th generation bootleg copy of something from a friend of a friend’s cousin was a rare and precious gift, a bit of insider cachet that felt cool and special.

The day I borrowed a Guns N’ Roses tape circa 1989, covertly taped by *somebody* at a concert, the guy I borrowed it from called me that evening to remind me to bring it back to school the next day, so precious were the goods.

Likewise, when I heard The Jerky Boys around that same era, their prank phone calls were the stuff of high school legend, hilarity for kids who weren’t very worldly or well-traveled, pre-internet.

These days, nothing’s a bootleg. Hell, so-called bootlegs are now professionally taped, marketed and sold.  And, forget about trying to do a prank call—who answers their phone from an unrecognizable number?

Despite that, if ever there was an opportunity to have some prank call phone fun (of course, I’m too old to engage in such shenanigans, but that wouldn’t stop me from listening to your prank calls. Cough. Cough.) now is the time.  Now, of course, again, I’m not advocating that anybody prank call anybody, tape it and subsequently share it online (Skype and Skype Recorder should work just fine) … but please let me know if you do …

Turning Leaf has a wine hot line that will be staffed live on November 20 – 22 from 2:00 – 8:00pm EST. Turning Leaf winemaker Nicole Hitchcock will pick up the phone, amongst others.  1-877-TLWINE-3

On Terroir


I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of months studying the philosophical underpinnings to the notion of terroir.  A lot of reading, a lot of thinking, a lot of opinion analysis from others, a lot of trying to understand what my own definition of terroir is ... because there isn’t a standard definition. 

To me, the word “terroir” is in the same realm of nebulous definition as pop culture phraseology like, “war on terror,” and “weapons of mass destruction” – yeah, the concept is there, but specifically, what the eff does it mean so I’m not a sycophantic mynah bird? This thought is also important because I believe that in order to reconcile thoughts on natural wine and biodynamic wine, two wine trends that are not going away anytime soon, you have to start with an understanding of where you come down on “terroir.”  Without having done so, any opinion on BioD and natural wine (pro or con) is like saying the Star Wars prequel trilogy movies suck because you watched Return of the Jedi and thought the Ewoks were lame.  A sound opinion has to be made in totality, with full context.

Wine writer Matt Kramer calls terroir a sense of, “somewhereness,” as in it tastes like the place it came from – an amalgamation of soil, region climate, microclimate, the grapes and the winemaker. Where the notion of terroir becomes really murky to me is the relationship terroir has to grapes AFTER soil, macroclimate and microclimate, but before it goes in the bottle.

Simply put, personally speaking and henceforth, I will never speak of a wine as being terroir-driven, or better or different than a wine of perceived lesser quality or mass scale for the simple fact that I hardly ever have enough information to speak with any authority.

Too often, I think wine enthusiasts make the simple-minded mistake of associating terroir with a wine that is evocative of earth, instead of being fruit-driven.

That’s a mistake.

Ask yourself when the last time was that you drank a wine and you knew all of the inputs into that wine that made up so-called “terroir.”  Clonal selection, irrigation practices, yeast strains, and the oak program can all be included in the broader definitions of terroir, but I usually haven’t the slightest clue what the clone or yeast strain is—two significant factors that can have as much of an impact on wine as the soil and the climate.

My point in all of this is that terroir is a word that has a million interpretations, but too few people have thought about it deeply enough to form their own opinion, aside from repeating assimilated and subsumed prevailing thought.  I would encourage everyone reading this to do a little reading and reflection on the subject to form your own unique point of view because, if nothing else, it will give you a foundation to form educated opinions on Biodynamics and natural wines, two newer peas in the same pod.


Posted in, News, Notes & Dusty Bottle Items. Permalink | Comments (7) |


On 11/17, 1winedude wrote:

terroir… A more-oft-abused wine PR term does not exist!

On 11/17, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

Careful fellows, you are stepping on religion now…

My latest concept of the word “terroir” is that it is the perfect term for those who haven’t dug deeply (pun, pun) into grape growing and winemaking==that, and the PR of which the Dude speaks.

Prediction: one day soon, we will have a new word in the winecon: greenoir.

On 11/17, Jeff wrote:

Both of you guys are spot-on.  I contemplated writing a stand-alone post with a sensational headline saying both—wine PR spin and people that don’t know enough about viticulture and winemaker PR, but it seemed like it would be one of those 1400 word posts with too much crap crammed in.

Net-net, I agree, both of you are exactly right in my opinion!

On 11/17, Frank wrote:

Jeff:  I appreciate the fact that you continue to address/tackle these topics… well done…  curious, what books/magazines/parchment did you read while studying the ‘philosophical underpinnings…’?

“I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of months studying the philosophical underpinnings to the notion of terroir.  A lot of reading…”

On 11/17, Jeff wrote:

Hi Frank,

Sure thing.  I’ve read the last four books in the last two months.

* The Taste of Place /

* The Geography of Wine /

* Vintner’s Art /

* (Re-read) Making Sense of Wine /

Of those, The Taste of Place is good conceptually, The Geography of Wine is an interesting book. Vintner’s Art is must reading and Making Sense of Wine is a classic.

If you choose to read one of these, get Vintner’s Art.  No hyperbole, you’ll finish it significantly smarter than before you read it.


On 11/18, Thomas Pellechia wrote:

“philosophical underpinnings”

If terroir is of the earth, then what’s the philosophy all about? Philosophy is the construct of the human mind—it has little or nothing to do with grapes reflecting their environment.

I’ve spent the past 26 years immersed in wine studies, of the grape growing and winemaking genus, and I never heard a word about it being a philosophical endeavor.

In fact, I’m still waiting for those who tell us that Riesling and Pinot Noir reflect their terroir more than any other grape variety to please explain why and how the two grapes do it.

Having said that, I do believe that all plants reflect their environment—to me, that’s a given. But once the fruits of those plants are subjected to human intervention, we take control. Whatever remains of the environmental factors are so bound up in the control that we have measured over the once natural plant that it while its terroir may have become a philosophical curiosity, that does not say a word about its natural certainty.

On 11/18, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Terrior: a marketing term, mostly likely first employed in France, to help provide an illusion of scarcity, and thus value, to a commodity otherwise in excess supply.


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