Randall Grahm on Terroir #2

“Somewhereness. For a European it is everything. You need to come from somewhere and probably your family has been in that somewhere Old vine terroirfor years upon years; you need to know where you stand in a hierarchy, where you fit in. In our New World egalitarian, meritocracy, it doesn’t matter where you came from, it’s what you have achieved. New World wines are really all about achievement; they are vins d’effort, rather than vins de terroir.” Randall Grahm from the article on Randall Grahm on Terroir This is post #2 relating to Grahm’s paper. You can find post #1 here.

“Somewhereness”, what a concept. It is this almost mystical concept that really defines what makes wine interesting. That feeling you have when you taste a wine that really sings of a certain place at a certain time: the combination of vineyard and vintage. A wine that does not have this sense of “somewhereness” may be an attractive beverage to wash down a meal, but it is nothing more than a beverage. Wine only rises to challenge the intellect when it possesses a sense of place.

Equally interesting is Grahm’s comment, “New World wines are really all about achievement; they are vins d’effort, rather than vins de terroir." That’s the American spirit: I can do it if I just try hard enough - no matter what kind of terroir I own or manipulation I have to do. This is why “points” have become the defining measurement for wine quality. Points measure that effort on a quantifiable scale and we need to have a firm hierarchy. A messy mix of different terroir characteristics that shine because of their differences just don’t make for a  a firm ranking of quality and that’s just not good marketing. Literary descriptions, no matter how well done lack this firm sense of ranking that insecure American consumers seem to need.

What makes terroir driven wines more interesting to drink is the very fact of the differences: like them or not.

Randall Grahm on Terroir - Santa Cruz Mountains.