Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What Does Terroir Taste Like?

In this article, Jaime Goode asks an interesting question: what does Terroir taste like? Seems to me there’s a simple answer: it doesn’t taste like anything. Or rather, it doesn’t taste like anything else. Every terroir, if it exists, is by definition unique, and so if a wine possesses terroir, it will not taste like any other wine with terroir (it could conceivably taste like a “manipulated” wine, if the manipulators are good enough at mimicking the taste of the original terroir wine (I don’t think they are yet, but given a perfect understanding of chemistry it’s possible), or if they’ve matched it by accident, I suppose.) I think this provides an explanation for the answer to his second question of the article, which is essentially “can people blind taste terroir?” (answer: not really, at least given some recent anecdotal evidence). Because if terroir doesn’t taste of anything in particular, then unless you’re really familiar with a particular terroir, you won’t be able to spot it. Though, you could conceivably get really good at tasting “manipulated” wines, i.e. know what all the tricks of the trade do to the taste of wines, and then apophatically (i.e. by process of elimination...can I use theological terminology in this forum? Perhaps there’s a better word that this, but I don’t know what it is.) spot the terroir wines.