June 11, 2008

A Search for Dirt

A definition (from the website www.terroir-france.com):

A " terroir " is a group of vineyards (or even vines) from the same region, belonging to a specific appellation, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions, grapes and wine making savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.

So that wonderfully ephemeral and elusive component of wine, that particular expression of a precise time (vintage) and place (vineyard) that wine-geeks seek, that magic combination of grape, sun, soil and rain, that thing called terroir, could be boiled down to this simple observation: "My mud tastes better than your mud."

Or so it seems to me. And I'm no cynic. I believe in terroir. I've seen it with my own eyes.
I can't say I can always find it, even when it's there. But I believe. Terroir is a vague and mysterious thing and I possess only a vague and mysterious idea of what it is exactly. But I believe.

My very dear friend Mike Weersing (shown here in his own particular mud with his own particular pig in a photo I have unabashedly stolen from his winery's website), first explained the magic of terroir to me while we sat before 5 or 6 unlabeled wines in a gite near Beaune in Burgundy. I had no idea at the time that the education imparted to me on that evening would be so valuable. I also had no idea at the time that I wouldn't get to taste that many great Pinots at one time ever again. But we drank them, and Mike told me about the vineyards where they came from and what I should be looking for in the glass. And in this way, I was initiated into this strange culte à mystère.

I have in mind more than a few experiments designed to suss out this magic mud. And the first will be Friday's feature, an old-fashioned mud-wrestle: The Prince versus The Genius.

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