Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Sign in to follow this  
Craig Camp

Randall Grahm on Terroir and Biodynamics

Recommended Posts

If you have ever been unclear about the meaning of terroir, do not miss the the article linked to below. I'll be blogging about it for days.

http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-re...on-Terroir.html

Writes Grahm, “A great terroir is the one that will elevate a particular site above that of its neighbors. It will ripen its grapes more completely more years out of ten than its neighbors; its wines will tend to be more balanced more of the time than its unfortunate contiguous confrères. But most of all, it will have a calling card, a quality of expressiveness, of distinctiveness that will provoke a sense of recognition in the consumer, whether or not the consumer has ever tasted the wine before.”

On biodynamics he comments, "“biodynamics is perhaps the most straightforward path to the enhanced expression of terroir in one’s vineyard. Its express purpose is to wake up the vines to the energetic forces of the universe, but its true purpose is to wake up the biodynamicist himself or herself.”

I think this is really powerful stuff and communicates well the real essence of these issues. There is real divide in the wine industry these days between the industrial fruit-bombs and terroir wines and the fruit-bombs are winning the points war. Perhaps a thoughtful article like this might change a few peoples minds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

what point are you trying to make? that wines with terroir cannot have expressive fruit?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There has been a lot of discussion in the wine industry about wines that are manipulated into a popular and predictable candied cherry and chocolate profile, as opposed to wines that might have cool weather acidity and herbal, mineral, or earthy notes that reflect terroir and vintage.

Grahm's pontifications should be taken with a grain of coarse sea salt, but he generally hides some gems of deep experience in his quirky essays, and he's always entertaining!


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
what point are you trying to make? that wines with terroir cannot have expressive fruit?

No, they do have expressive fruit. In fact, the most expressive. That is the point of terroir. Simple over-extracted fruit-bombs don't have expressive fruit - they just have volume.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There has been a lot of discussion in the wine industry about wines that are manipulated into a popular and predictable candied cherry and chocolate profile, as opposed to wines that might have cool weather acidity and herbal, mineral, or earthy notes that reflect terroir and vintage.

Grahm's pontifications should be taken with a grain of coarse sea salt, but he generally hides some gems of deep experience in his quirky essays, and he's always entertaining!

Let's not get down on Randall for his excesses here. Look at what he is saying.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There has been a lot of discussion in the wine industry about wines that are manipulated into a popular and predictable candied cherry and chocolate profile, as opposed to wines that might have cool weather acidity and herbal, mineral, or earthy notes that reflect terroir and vintage.

Cool weather and acidity is not the point. Take Southern Italy's Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Negoramaro and Aglianco - all vines capable of extremely terroir driven wines in warm climates not defined by acidity or herbs.

The debate is between manipulated wines and terroir wines - wines of the vineyard or wines of the winemaking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If you have ever been unclear about the meaning of terroir, do not miss the the article linked to below. I'll be blogging about it for days.

http://wine.appellationamerica.com/wine-re...on-Terroir.html

Writes Grahm, “A great terroir is the one that will elevate a particular site above that of its neighbors. It will ripen its grapes more completely more years out of ten than its neighbors; its wines will tend to be more balanced more of the time than its unfortunate contiguous confrères. But most of all, it will have a calling card, a quality of expressiveness, of distinctiveness that will provoke a sense of recognition in the consumer, whether or not the consumer has ever tasted the wine before.”

On biodynamics he comments, "“biodynamics is perhaps the most straightforward path to the enhanced expression of terroir in one’s vineyard. Its express purpose is to wake up the vines to the energetic forces of the universe, but its true purpose is to wake up the biodynamicist himself or herself.”

I think this is really powerful stuff and communicates well the real essence of these issues. There is real divide in the wine industry these days between the industrial fruit-bombs and terroir wines and the fruit-bombs are winning the points war. Perhaps a thoughtful article like this might change a few peoples minds.

I like many of Graham's wines--he has never been known to place any emphasis on "place."

Just where is "Cigar Volante" or "Vin Du Glacier" from anyway? and I challenge anyone to blindly note any specific grape site as a source.

This is not to say that graham's wines are not interesting--I believe they are.

The real problem for me, is that terroir is not some mystical notion-it is a premise that makes a lot of sense--at the basest level we all would agree that every grape is from somewhere!

but--while terroir and wine styles can make for an interesting discussion too often it is brought up by people who have an ax to grind or are making some sort of political statement.

If one wants a rational and informative review of the current state of things re: terroir then I would suggest a look at the Oxford Companion to Wine--some interesting developments are in progress.

But let's also remember that terroir needs to be discussed in perspective--1976 some experienced tasters could not differentiate terroirs thousands of miles apart. And a lot of folks can'ty seem to pick out the old world or new world wines in blind tastings.

Let's also remember that two adjoining vinyards in say Alsace can produce two ver different tasting wines.

I would also posit that people like Nossiter and to a lesser extent Graham are actually muddling the concept of terroir by putting forth agenda laden arguments rife with confusing notions and sometimes outright inaccuracies and half truths.

I would have to ask--what "points war?"

What "divide?"

The truth is there are more different wines from more places in more styles on retailers shelves today than ever before.

Those Italian wines mentioned were not even available to most drinkers just a short time ago.

There is simply no evidence to support a lot of the hoo ha!

as for Bio dynamics--where is the crisis? Just a few years ago there were few--if any--bio dynamically produced wines.

I am still looking for an agreed upon clear definition of just what constitutes a bio dynamic wine.

But-anyway--there seems to be a lot more of them around.

All this talk about extraction and ripeness and alcohol levels is too often a smokescreen for a political argument. (these could be and are interesting topics for discussion--if we could jettison the silly politics).

by the way:

Where are these folks when Amarone is discussed?

So I ask--where's the big debate?

where's this war for the points?

what points?

what war?

It is curious that we would turn to Graham (yes he is entertaining) when we have wonderfully more clearly written and much more accurate reviews of terroir from a number of people (Oxford is one, Anthony Hanson does a good job too).


Edited by JohnL (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The fact is--that science is dealing with terroir--the evidence thus far--inconclusive.

Centuries of hard evidence of distinctive terroir in places like Burgundy and Barolo are inconclusive?

I would love to know what this "real divide" is? Who exactly is debating industrial fruit bombs and terroir wines? What are these wines?

Also just what the heck is the "points war?"

There is a clear and well documented divide that is easily discovered with just a little research. If you don't know of this debate you are simply not on top of what's going on in the wine industry. What do you think the whole Parker vs. the British wine press is about? The only people who are not thinking about this are those satisfied with industrial, over manipulated wines with interchangeable characteristics no matter where they are produced.

I look at the shelves of local retailers and see an absolutely incredible range of sources of wines and wine styles.

Yeah, like those 100 chardonnays they offer that all taste more-or-less exactly the same? Most of the wines on store shelves today are almost identical as they are manufactured to be in a particular style. That style is determined by marketing departments not vineyards.

Those supposedly "terroir" driven wines from Southern Italy you mention were not even available not long ago.

They have been making terroir driven wines from these varietals in southern Italy since it was part of Greece – only over three thousand years ago. It is only consumers like you that have just "discovered" these wines.

In 1976 expert tasters could not discern wines from different terroirs thousands of miles apart.

In 1976 there was good reason to be confused. However, nobody makes wine like that in California anymore. That was in the days when they thought 24 brix was ripe.

I personally have sat in myriad blind tastings where a majority of tasters could not note the differences between any number of New World and Old World wines--most of the tasters being industry professionals and savvy collectors.

Myriad? You must be older than I thought. Most tasters are at best generalists and often can make such mistakes. Even the trained palate is fallible as it is a human instrument. I too have been in myriad blind tastings and have often seen vineyards identified down to the button. For example, Guiseppe Colla, who has now made over 50 vintages of Barolo and Barbaresco can do this routinely. There is expertise and there is expertise. Those of us who spend our lives trying to master the entire world of wine are doomed to never knowing a terroir at its deepest levels. This does not mean that we can't appreciate it, but expecting to be able to precisely name was section of Vosne Romanee it came from is not realistic.

The original concept of designated vinyard sites was to promote commerce--that is identify where better wines were produced and encourage good practices.

True it was based on commerce, but not in the way you think. For example in Barolo, the vineyards were farmed by small farmers without the resources to produce wine and the wine were made by large negociants like Fontanafredda. The hierarchy of vineyards with identifiable terroir became important as a way to price your grapes, not to sell the wines. You site the example of the many styles of Clos Vougeot today, but not so many decades ago there were only a few bottlings of Clos Vougeot produced unlike the dozens sold today.

There is a lot of interesting wine available today. In fact, there is more better quality wine available due to improved viticulture and vinification techniques.

Terroir is real, it is a good thing--let's just put it into proper perspective and enjoy the bounty of wine we have.

This is not true. While indeed there have never been more well-made wines in the world, the fact is that most of them are the same wine with different labels. The improved viticulture and winemaking of today has actually improved real terroir.


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The "better living through chemistry" approach to viniculture all but defeats the simple miracle of wine (and the notion that terroir is something that can be added to a wine is, of course, an absurdity). Now that wine is as never before a commodity, for most producers practical considerations supercede artistic, philosophical or political considerations. Who has the luxury of establishing a vinyard where the grape is truly a product of its environment, no matter the outcome? No business-minded producer could stomach such a risk. Instead, the grape is manipulated to conform to expected results, the winemaker's vision of what the wine should, rather than what the wine naturally wants to be. Maybe this will change, but for New World wine producers, terroir is a liability.


Edited by ivan (log)

--

ID

--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The "better living through chemistry" approach to viniculture all but defeats the simple miracle of wine (and the notion that terroir is something that can be added to a wine is, of course, an absurdity). Now that wine is as never before a commodity, for most producers practical considerations supercede artistic, philosophical or political considerations. Who has the luxury of establishing a vinyard where the grape is truly a product of its environment, no matter the outcome? No business-minded producer could stomach such a risk. Instead, the grape is manipulated to conform to expected results, the winemaker's vision of what the wine should, rather than what the wine naturally wants to be. Maybe this will change, but for New World wine producers, terroir is a liability.

Ivan

Could you be specific?

Are you saying that there are no wines from the new world that express any terroir?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cool weather and acidity is not the point. Take Southern Italy's Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Negoramaro and Aglianco - all vines capable of extremely terroir driven wines in warm climates not defined by acidity or herbs.

I was simply throwing out some examples. If I tried to list all the ways that wines can show terroir, I'd need a few pages.

In 1976 there was good reason to be confused. However, nobody makes wine like that in California anymore. That was in the days when they thought 24 brix was ripe.

Ouch. Careful with the generalizations, please.

Let's not get down on Randall for his excesses here. Look at what he is saying.

Actually, I have read Grahm's speech through several times. And in fact, I have just performed sensitive crystallization trials on our wines with the help of soil scientist Dr. Tom Rice. As far as I know, I am the first person to have attempted to replicate Grahm's efforts, and as Grahm would not release slides of his crystals, my petris will be the first cyrstallization trials to be published on the internet. Watch for the article sometime later this week on Appellation America.

Here is a preview:

We did four pairs of samples--two wines or vintages from each of four vineyards.

2003 Hansen Cabernet

2004 Hansen Viognier

2002 Alto Pomar (a Rhone blend from Alto Pomar Vineyard)

2003 Alto Pomar

2004 Starr Ranch Roussanne

2004 Starr Ranch Syrah

2003 Dove Pond Zinfandel Port

2002 Dove Pond Syrah

These are samples I had on hand, and what we went with during this first trial, which was, frankly, just for fun, and to see if the process worked at all. The results were . . . interesting, and we have decided to have another petri party soon to perform more trials.

This is a control sample of copper chloride solution mixed with filtered water:

gallery_17061_225_11158.jpg

2003 Alto Pomar

gallery_17061_225_18439.jpg

2002 Dove Pond Syrah

gallery_17061_225_294735.jpg

The two Alto Pomar wines have the most similarities--both have very raised, but somewhat disorganized green crystals.

The entire set with comments from the vineyard owners will be published in a few days.


_____________________

Mary Baker

Solid Communications

Find me on Facebook

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ivan

Could you be specific?

Are you saying that there are no wines from the new world that express any terroir?

No, I am saying that a typical business model does not allow for it. If I understand Randall's musings, any grape will have terroir if allowed to, but it might not be an appealing terroir. The goal of a business is to make wine that appeals.


--

ID

--

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Craig

I believe you are taking terroir and attempting to make a political argument.

It is all about Robert Parker and globalization.

One can discuss terroir--it is a fascinating subject.

We can also debate Parker-- though I would suggest you look at what he has written about terroir first.

(I think you would be pleasantly suprised) You would also be suprised at how much of the fooferaw is due to petty jealously and silly professional feuding. We are talking a very small handful of writers here.

As for the globalization thing this is to me a non issue.

basically you are saying that all/most wines taste the same.

ok

so for eg in Barolo the wines of

Voerzio, Conterno (pick one A or G-or take both), Scavino to name a few--all taste the same? really?

well if you are arguing terroir then wines made by all these folks should taste the same if they are from the same vinyard--correct?

see how convoluted this can get?

where does terroir end and the hand of the wine maker begin? where should the line be?

also for eg-you seem to be saying that one can dismiss my point about the 1976 tasting because the wine making obliterated the terroir back then?

well if so, how about the difficulties one has differentiating todays' wines?

I believe you are confusing wine styles and wine making techniques and wine fashion all of which are evolving.

yes there are a hundred chardonnays that are similar in style (the sam?--I won't go that far). However you overlook all the other chardonnays available that are definitely not the same in service of your argument!

So: Peter Michael and Kistler and Flowers and Au Bon Climat and others oaked and unoaked from various vinyards and micro climates all taste the same?

I think not--

all Burgundies are the same? All Bordeaux?

Really

and it's all Parker's fault?

I agree with much of what you (and Randall) are saying about terroir.

I am disagreeing with your attempts to make a case about terroir and globalization.

That argument holds no water (wine).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ivan

Could you be specific?

Are you saying that there are no wines from the new world that express any terroir?

No, I am saying that a typical business model does not allow for it. If I understand Randall's musings, any grape will have terroir if allowed to, but it might not be an appealing terroir. The goal of a business is to make wine that appeals.

That's what I thought.

You have found a moment of great lucidity among Randalls meandering tome.

The guy does make good wine.

By the way--as Mr Graham has experimented with actually putting crushed rocks into his fermentation tanks--how's that for instant terroir!!!!

The implications are enormous--why then all wine could taste like it came from the same place!!!

I suppose the globalizationista will somehow find a way to tie Robert Parker into it--the guy is just nefarious!

:shock:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Barolo the wines of

Voerzio, Conterno (pick one A or G-or take both), Scavino to name a few--all taste the same? really?

My point exactly. Conterno tastes like Barolo while Scavino and Vorezio taste like Scavino and Vorezio - vine and vineyard are secondary for them and primary for the Conterno. (I assume you mean Giacomo) This doesn't mean that Scavino and Vorezio aren't delicious and enjoyable, it just means they don't taste like nebbiolo. In fact, almost everything they do is to control some aspect of nebbiolo they think needs adjusting while Conterno is doing everything to expand on the natural character of nebbbiolo.

also for eg-you seem to be saying that one can dismiss my point about the 1976 tasting because the wine making obliterated the terroir back then?

Just the opposite.

I also see no reason to bring Parker into this and think for the most part he personally respects terroir in France - with a few notable exceptions. This issue is not globalization but industrialization and elimination of regional characteristics in the pursuit a wine that pleases the highest percentage of consumers. It's easy to find European wine for under $20 that displays terroir, how many New World wines can say that?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Barolo the wines of

Voerzio, Conterno (pick one A or G-or take both), Scavino to name a few--all taste the same? really?

My point exactly. Conterno tastes like Barolo while Scavino and Vorezio taste like Scavino and Vorezio - vine and vineyard are secondary for them and primary for the Conterno. (I assume you mean Giacomo) This doesn't mean that Scavino and Vorezio aren't delicious and enjoyable, it just means they don't taste like nebbiolo. In fact, almost everything they do is to control some aspect of nebbiolo they think needs adjusting while Conterno is doing everything to expand on the natural character of nebbbiolo.

also for eg-you seem to be saying that one can dismiss my point about the 1976 tasting because the wine making obliterated the terroir back then?

Just the opposite.

I also see no reason to bring Parker into this and think for the most part he personally respects terroir in France - with a few notable exceptions. This issue is not globalization but industrialization and elimination of regional characteristics in the pursuit a wine that pleases the highest percentage of consumers. It's easy to find European wine for under $20 that displays terroir, how many New World wines can say that?

Gee--now you are sounding so ....well...moderate and reasonable!

:shock:

I must say I do agree with everything you are saying.

The new world is getting there--I believe that wine makers are just beginning to find terroir.

The problem was initially, they tried to emulate European wines rather than simply find what worked best where in terms of varietals and terroirs.

I have tasted some very fine wines that are interesting and seem to reflect the complexies that are offered by terroir.

I would say that Hanzel and Mount Eden Reserve chardonnays are on a par with a lot of fine chardonnays from France in terms of expressiveness.

will they ever rise to the level of a DRC or Leroy Montrachet?

I had a revelatory experience a while ago with a number of side by side tastings of Eyrie Reserve Pinot 1985 and The '85 Volnay 60 Ouvrees of Pousse D'Or at ten years of age.

The wines were near identical.

Early tastings of the Eyrie held no hint at what this wine became.

I would say the future is looking good for the New World.

In fact I have tasted soem very fine Clare Valley Rieslings and Chardonnays from Australia recently.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cool weather and acidity is not the point. Take Southern Italy's Nero d'Avola, Nerello Mascalese, Negoramaro and Aglianco - all vines capable of extremely terroir driven wines in warm climates not defined by acidity or herbs.

I was simply throwing out some examples. If I tried to list all the ways that wines can show terroir, I'd need a few pages.

In 1976 there was good reason to be confused. However, nobody makes wine like that in California anymore. That was in the days when they thought 24 brix was ripe.

Ouch. Careful with the generalizations, please.

Let's not get down on Randall for his excesses here. Look at what he is saying.

Actually, I have read Grahm's speech through several times. And in fact, I have just performed sensitive crystallization trials on our wines with the help of soil scientist Dr. Tom Rice. As far as I know, I am the first person to have attempted to replicate Grahm's efforts, and as Grahm would not release slides of his crystals, my petris will be the first cyrstallization trials to be published on the internet. Watch for the article sometime later this week on Appellation America.

I have to say I don't buy the weird side of biodymanics. It's hard to believe in things that would make a chemistry professor roll on the floor in laughter. What I do believe it that anyone who is willing to make this much extra effort is bound to make better wines and end up with a deeper knowledge of their vineyards.

Indeed, that is a generalization about California, but it is based on reality. In 1976 growers would brag about 24 brix, today its nothing to go over 26 or more. There are obviously many, many dedicated producers in California making terroir driven wines of great character. However, like in every other wine region of the world, most do not. The style that sells, aided and abetted by the press, is big, ripe, woody and fruity few have the courage to take another course.

Most producers are in the beverage wine business and a small percentage are in the terroir wine business and that is probably natural way of things and the way it should be. The problem is that, in the past, the terroir wines received the honors and attention of collectors, while today it is all to often winemaking wines that get all the attention.


Edited by Craig Camp (log)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Ivan

Could you be specific?

Are you saying that there are no wines from the new world that express any terroir?

No, I am saying that a typical business model does not allow for it. If I understand Randall's musings, any grape will have terroir if allowed to, but it might not be an appealing terroir. The goal of a business is to make wine that appeals.

bingo

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Gee--now you are sounding so ....well...moderate and reasonable!

Damn, I blew my cover.

I would say that Hanzel and Mount Eden Reserve chardonnays are on a par with a lot of fine chardonnays from France in terms of expressiveness.

will they ever rise to the level of a DRC or Leroy Montrachet?

The question may not be if, but if they are not already there? Part of the "level" of Montrachet and white Burgundy is they were the first to achieve chardonnay excellence. That style is a function of that terroir, just as Hanzel and Mount Eden are a function of theirs. At some point it only becomes a question of taste and/or prejudice.

I had a revelatory experience a while ago with a number of side by side tastings of Eyrie Reserve Pinot 1985 and The '85 Volnay 60 Ouvrees of Pousse D'Or at ten years of age.

Interesting comment. I can really see the comparison of these two wines, they are wines made in the same minimalist spirit and are decidedly driven by their vineyards of origin.

I would say the future is looking good for the New World.

Something I would obviously agree with.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...