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August Learning with Josh - All About Terroir

Every month we like to bring our customers along on an educational journey. Focusing on different aspects of the wine world, we will cover the regions, producers, and winemaking processes that make wine such an exciting thing to drink and discuss. This month it's all about Terroir! Read on to learn about what Terroir means, how it factors into wine production, and the Terroir-focused wines we have in stock today.


What is Terroir?


Terroir (tehr-waah) is a French word which describes the growing environment of a specific grape vine. Terroir refers to the myriad environmental factors that make up the ‘fingerprint’ of a vine within a vineyard. It is a word as much as an idea, the specific mixture of climate, soil, hydrology, geology, and topography of a planting. However, Terroir extends even deeper to the individual choices made by the farmer from farming practices like pesticide and fertilizer usage to the breeding of site-specific phenotypes.


How is Terroir Expressed in Wine?


The most important thing to look for if you want to taste Terroir in your wine is ‘Low-Intervention Practices’. This term is a catch-all term however, and it’s important to look for more specific information such as ‘spontaneous fermentation’, referring to the absence of commercial yeast which can standardize the taste of a wine. It’s also important to ensure your wine is free of additives that control for pH and other factors. Stabilizing additives like low-level sulfates and chestnut flowers are a necessary part of shipping and storing wine and are generally acceptable as they don’t obscure subtle flavors. Terroir driven wine varies year to year, as terroir itself does, and gaining an understanding of vintage variation among your favorite terroir driven wines is great fun and can open a whole new world of wine up!


Is Terroir just a 'Wine' Thing?


Terroir doesn’t just refer to wine! While generally applied to vinifera (grape vines) and used in the world of wine extensively, there are many other crops which are studied in relation to terroir. Cider, coffee, tobacco, olive oil, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, agave (for making tequila and mezcal), tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, tea, and good ol’ cannabis are all studied for the relation between specific qualities in yields and terroir.


Pairing with Terroir


Terroir driven wines are generally expressing a specific quality of the underlying soil and geology, from light whites like Muscadet, a specific region on the coast of the Loire where the grape Melon de Bourgogne takes on a saline quality differentiated from any other French white, to the area known as Carneros where Napa and Sonoma County meet in a valley of sea fog producing some of the most refined and elegant Pinot Noirs. Pairings would be Seafood for the former, and Caneton aux Cérises (Roasted Duck with Cherries) for the latter. You can find a terroir driven wine for any meal!


Our Terroir Picks


Le Grenouille Muscadet Sur Lie White- $15


Translating to 'The Frog', Le Grenouille is a light and refreshing muscadet that just leaps onto your palette! Muscadet is a region on the extreme western edge of the Loire Valley along the Atlantic Ocean. Near the city of Nantes, the sea breeze keeps the area cooler than the rest of the Loire Valley, lending a beautiful tart acidity to the wines from this region. The sub-region within Muscadet of Sevre-et-Maine has the most ideally situated vineyards with well drained soils rich in magnesium and potassium.


Ryme Carneros Pinot Noir Red - $33


Ryme makes a beautiful Pinot Noir from Las Brisas Vineyard in the Carneros appellation in Sonoma County, California. The cold and windy climate at the vineyard produces a Pinot that is exceedingly delicate and elegant. It is made of a blend of the Swan Clone (spicy, savory) and the Beaujolais Gamay Clone (juicy, fruity, textural) of Pinot Noir. The soil in the Carneros AVA varies by location but is predominantly Haire-Coombs, with impenetrable clay beneath the topsoil. The hard clay soils are able to hold water through spring and has a cooling effect on the vines that tends to delay bud break.


A Los Vinateros Cinsault Granitico - $27


These 60-year-old Cinsault vines thrive in Itata's cold climate and dry farmed granitic soils. Leo knows exactly how to transport what is in the vineyard to the bottle! Fermented in concrete with only a touch of SO2 at bottling, the results are pure and exhilarating, with delicious red currant, clove, rose petal, and a slightly smoky finish.




Cantina Madonna delle Grazie Aglianico del Vulture - $19/$21


These two wines showcase terroir side by side! Messer Oto is a lighter and fresher style of rich Aglianico red wine, drawn from a portion of the vineyard with younger vines and limestone mixed with volcanic soils and aged only in stainless steel vessels. Liscone is a darker, richer style of Aglianico drawn from 30+ year old vines located about 1.5 miles from Messer Oto. With more clay in the soil and a nearby creek, the terroir creates a more concentrated red wine that is then aged in neutral French oak for a year before being finished in stainless.


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