My Italian terroir is rich!
Posted on 09 June 2020
The peninsula is blessed with both a bewildering array of indigenous grape varietals and a huge number of specific “terroirs”
But what is a “terroir” actually?
Terroir is actually one of the most used and least understood wine words that were originally associated with earthy notes but losing its meaning with the time, it now describes practically every wine region.
This big French term - that cannot easily be translated into other languages - is something quite simple in the end: it is about the wine being deeply connected to the place and people, all about how a particular region’s weather, soils, aspect and even tradition (when there’s history around obviously) affect the taste. If a wine exhibits terroir when tasting it, it means that the land speaks through it, that with a little practice you can feel how and where it was grown!
Regarding weather, the main trade-offs come between cool (giving lower sugar level and more acid wines) and warm (for higher sugar levels yet higher alcohol nectars), precipitations and sunshine level, seasonal variation.
Soil-wise, there are hundreds of different types of soil, rock, and mineral deposits in the world’s vineyards which can impact a wine.
In terms of terrain, altitude is an increasingly important focus for quality vineyards, geological features, flora, and proximity to waters also.
Last but not least, the choices made in vine planting, growing, harvesting, and winemaking techniques (conditions for fermentation and aging, use of yeasts, etc.) do contribute too.
But if the final learning is that the land and climate where the grapes are grown do impart unique characteristics into the grape qualifying the region of the world…
What about Italy?
Throughout the country, the lakes (i.e. Lake Garda, Lake Iseo), mountains (the Alps and the Apennines), soils (morainic glacial soil and volcanic soil especially in the south), seas (Tyrrhenian, Adriatic, and Ionian), topography (plains, hills, and mountains) and climate variation affect the wine regions. What a challenge for production indeed!
Thus one grape in a region greatly differs when produced in another one and - obviously - when worked differently according to winemakers’ evaluations.
The southern wines that are often grown at higher elevations in volcanic mineral soil together with dramatic temperature shifts from day to night have riper, clean flavors and a distinctive “sense of original place”. Others of the most elegant and complex wines of the peninsula come from the cooler, higher elevation vineyards on the rolling hills at the base of the Apennine Mountains.
In Tuscany for instance, the same Sangiovese red varietal do not behave the same when entering a Chianti Classico, a Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or a Brunello di Montalcino.
In Liguria, on the terraced slopes along the coastline, Pigato (called Vermentino in other regions) comes out with minerality, raciness, and citrus.
So, this is now up to you.
Is a “terroir wine” - or “terroir-driven” wine - a pure marketing concept?
We are convinced that your answer might be NO once perceived the whole “story” behind your next 1st sip!