Friday, March 09, 2007

Terroir! Huh! Yeah! What is it good for?

(I've been waiting to use that post title, apropos or not!)

Dan Berger, editor-at-large of Appellation America, has another post about his perception of the move away from terroir, this time as it relates to Napa. What I find interesting about the article is that he sets up the current lack of terroir with a brief history of Rutherford and the argument about Rutherford dust. Oddly, he even concedes that the presence of Rutherford dust, even during the days of Andre Tchelistcheff, was not universally accepted. Despite his statement that "terroir now plays second fiddle to brawn", it appears that the terroir of Napa Valley has never been well-defined or agreed-to.

This has been my problem with the mission of Appellation America from the get-go. I think they're well intended, but attempting to define and fight for regionality in California presumes that such a thing can be defined or even exists. At a tasting they hosted on Carneros Pinot Noir, no distinctive regionality was even found (though it was "remembered")! Remembering what older Pinots of the region once tasted like is hardly a suitable starting point for the wines of today.

Perhaps wine styles today obscure the underlying terroir, but IMO, that's a gross oversimplification as there is so much more going on in the vineyard and the winery than just riper grapes. Glorifying wines of the past is fine, but if we can't agree that they showed what we want (terroir), aren't we blindly running backwards toward them? Seems like the undefinable and unmapple Rutherford dust problem of Tchelistcheff's time is more a parable for today's continuing lack of unity within regions more than it is something to aspire to.



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