"Terroir" is a term, originally French, in winemaking that has come to mean all of the environmental impacts on the making of a wine; the land, the wind, the rain... even the winemaker is considered by many to be part of the terroir.
So my apologies, firstly, for not writing for the past few weeks. Many of you know that my wife and I have a new addition to the family: TheLittlestStudentOfWine. Absolute truth; she smells every wine I taste at home and has her own list of wrinkly noses to explain how much (or how little) she likes a wine. For instance the Hainle (http://www.hainle.com/) icewine Riesling or the Summerhill (http://www.summerhill.bc.ca/) late harvest Erenfelser gets a big smile each and every time. Overly cropped Shiraz? Usually a big wrinkly face.
But I digress.
Today I was reading the latest Decanter Magazine (http://www.decanter.com/) and lo-and-behold, most of the articles on California were about a movement in winemaking back to the concept of terroir... winemakers who are not afraid anymore to allow the land and the grape to express themselves. This may sound like common-sense, but sadly is not the case.
Many winemakers feel compelled by critics and points to make a wine "that-the-people-will-like", instead of a wine that they themselves will be proud of. There is chemical control, the addition of compounds, and many other "tricks" to manipulate a wine into being something other then what it wants to be. Think of it as plastic surgery for wine.
But there is that movement that Decanter is talking about, and the movement is growing.
And where did this concept come from again? France.
Arguably some of the most devote students to the concept to terroir are Louis and Cherry Barruol of Saint Cosme winery in Gigondas (http://www.saintcosme.com/). Louis is the inheritor of 14 generations of dedication to allowing the southern Rhone terroir express itself through his wines. In fact, his family home has an archaeological site with the oldest wine fermentation tank in southern France, dated at 2000 years old. Serious winemaking on this land~!
And serious about quality. Louis refutes the use of artificial yeasts during fermentation and is as sparse as can be with SO2 during production/bottling. I personally have seen poor results with winemakers who abhorred SO2 and then ended up with prematurely oxidized wines, but I am a new believer after tasting this vintage from Saint Cosme.
2007 Saint Cosme Chateauneuf-du-Pape
$65 **** EXCELLENT VALUE ****
vines: average age approximately 60 years
climate: cool and late-ripening
- visual: clear; medium+ bruised plum core with slight cherry/brick rim
- nose: clean; medium+ to fully intense; youthful and developing aromas; red and black cherries with definite candied notes, rich, savory winter spice background with lifted floral notes and hints of white pepper
- palate: clean; dry, moderate+ (young cherry/red currant) acids, moderate+ (fine, silty) tannins, moderate body, moderate+ ABV, moderate+ to fully intense and youthful flavors that mimick the nose; heavy emphasis on the young berry notes throughout. Excellent balance and structure with a long finish
- conclusion: already starting to show exceptional promise, this wine will blossom into a superstar given a few more years; enjoy 2015-2028+
- FOOD PAIRINGS: with the exciting acids and rich complexion, this wine would sing if paired with foie gras and beef... consider an oven roast tenderloin of beef with seared foie gras on Alsatian potato and leek croquette
In Louis' own words:
"At Saint Cosme we usually work “à la main”. I want to make wines which express their terroir with purity and personality"
And he succeeds. A winery that has very little following outside of France (so far) is becoming known to industry insiders as one of the value wineries in the Southern Rhone. Do they have expensive wines... of course. Are they worth the money? You better believe it.
As always, I look forward to your comments and questions.
CINCIN~!!! SLAINTE~!!! CHEERS~!!!