True or False?

As a member of the Wine Consortium Blog, I got an interesting set of questions send to  me today and I thought I’d answer them!  Let me know what your answers would be.


True or false #1: “Terroir makes character; people make quality.”

I have written an article on the “terror” of terroir. It is a misunderstood piece of the viticulture process, and is seen as part of the snob factor. If seen as part of the agriculture process rather than of mystique and alchemy, so much the better. Even out own gardens have terroir.


True or false #2: “Grape phenolic maturity is independent of sugar levels and should be achieved even if it means (in a warm area) very high sugar accumulation.

Too much alcohol? Not a problem. You can remove it from the finished wine with one of the available techniques for alcohol reduction.”

Chemistry, ah chemistry. Know your grapes, and climate. Make a plan for what you will or won’t do after picking. Organic and sustainable wine practices are gaining consumer popularity.

How does the alcohol get removed? The original wine is heated in a centrifugal film evaporator that produces a liquid phase reduced-alcohol wine, and a vapor phase of relatively high proof – the unwanted alcohol. The original wine is added to the reduced-alcohol wine, in a predetermined ratio to increase the alcohol content to the desired level in the reduced-alcohol wine, and introduced desired properties and characteristics. I need to ben convinced that this is just another element in the bag of tricks a winemaker has at their disposal, like oak barrels.

That said, alcohol levels in wine have been climbing steadily, and that, to me, doesn’t help with food pairing or casual wine drinking as a social function.

True or false #3: “There is a major disconnection between what has been done to improve wine quality and what wine writer’s choose to tell consumers, because they feel that if they tell people what is really going on, then the excitement will go away.”

It’s up to a wine writer to make the subject interesting to her readers. I try to inform rather than dish dirt, but that’s my choice. There is nothing dull about wine or the industry. If improvements make better wine, spread the word! UC Davis is making huge breakthroughs in vineyard management, sustainable agriculture is good for the planet, what better story is that!

True or false #4: ‘I like it’ is not the same as ‘this wine is good’. Personal taste is one thing, standards of quality which refer to more or less accepted criteria, another.  In other words: ‘Good wine is the wine that you like’ is not true by any means.

What makes a good wine is very subjective to people, but I hope that wine drinkers become more educated about the wine or grape varietal they like. To get all the benefits of wine, a drinker needs to know how to smell it and how to taste it – and how to relax while smelling and tasting, it’s not a test or a competition – it’s information! For me complexity and layers mean that is has a good chance of being a good wine – is it a single note or a rock concert?

True or false #5: We are in danger of moving toward universal “styles” of wine that obliterate or significantly blur the all-important regional differences between otherwise similar wines.

I’ve very rarely seen two competing winemakers agree on anything -style, methods, blending, pricing. The move towards the wines being named after the grape rather than the blend, like a Rhone or Bordeaux is a trend that is becoming the world standard. Simple to market, but as a lover of blends, I hate to lose some of that regional individuality.

True or false #6: Sulphur compounds are often misidentified as “terroir characters”. What it means is that the mineral qualities that we describe in some wines are derived in the winery and not in the vineyard.

I hope this is false for most people! I know sulphur when I smell and taste it, and the mineral qualities in, for example a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, are from terroir and climate.

True or false #7: Great wines are rare because the great terroirs are rare.

I think every region has a better terroir than other areas in the same region, and that helps to kick-start the wine making process. As in cooking, it helps to start with good ingredients. There are some amazing terroirs in every country, and not everyone in that renowned terroir make renowned wine. More than terroir, I hear winemakers talking about micro climates.


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