Posts Tagged ‘terroir’

“Map-It ™ Because Place Matters”

Monday, May 18th, 2009

“Place Matters”.  This is what is telling us with their latest marketing tool.

Terroir, or the “sense of place” as it is often described, is said to be what distinguishes ordinary, or what I suppose could theoretically be laboratory wines (those manufactured anywhere, and tasting of nowhere), from extraordinary wines; those wines that truly bring you to a specific geographical location through its aromas and flavors.

The idea of terroir-driven wines makes sense to me in that these wines possess a unique quality.   They might possess that unique smell of saltwater from the parallel ocean, or they might possess a flinty aroma from the flint stones scattered throughout their vineyard.  Or, as is the case with some of the better Israeli wines, they might possess an herbaceous or even green olive quality from all the wild sage, rosemary, thyme and olive groves that grow throughout the country and often surround the vineyard itself.

Getting back to the new Map-It feature, I wonder how important it is for people to SEE (on a radar image) the location where the wine was made, or better yet (when available) where the grapes were grown.  If it opens up one’s imagination to a story and helps to paint the picture behind the wine for the wine-curious consumer then I guess it is important.

As is generally the case when it comes to my bizarre mind, this all led me to think about Israeli wine.   In this case as it pertains to Israeli wine in retail stores.   Outside of Israel I would venture to say that NYC has the greatest selection of Israeli wines in the world.  But if you are to enter a retail store seeking an Israeli wine do you know where the clerk would take you?  To the KOSHER section.  WHERE in the world is kosher???

There is a section for France.  Italy.  Spain.  US wines are generally grouped together, yet they usually are separated between states.  German wines.  Australian wines…I can go on and on.  Heck, even organic wines are USUALLY found in a section pertaining to their country of origin (though some stores ALSO have a special organic section).  So why does just about every store in the region with the 2nd largest concentration of Israeli wines group these wines together with other wines from all over the world??

What of those wines made in Israel that do not have kosher certification??

Why not create a section for Israeli wines (they should be contained within an Eastern Mediterranean section near wines from Greece, Cyprus & Lebanon) AS WELL AS a kosher section just as is done with organic wines???

Clearly I am a very biased observer here.  But the more I read about how trendy terroir is and how important a “sense of place” is when it comes to wine the more I wonder, why not for Israel????

Happy terroir driven wine tasting!


Quick rant & “natural” wines

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

It has been too long.  I miss YOU!  Getting back from Israel has been exhausting.  Jet-lag is kicking my butt.   Furthermore, following the Vlog launch, getting back to actual writing has been tough.  But fear not, I am shopping around for what I hope will be the prefect video companion and I expect to get back to Vlogging ASAP (to the delight of my friends who have enjoyed making lots of fun of me).  In the meantime you will have to settle for my prose…

Let’s start with coffee.  I have somehow managed not to become a regular drinker of coffee.  I both fear a coffee dependency, and dislike most of the coffee around.  It either tastes watered down, burnt, or otherwise just not to my taste.  But there is a small NYC chain, “Joe” whose coffee I really like.   I was safe as I only drink their coffee when I find myself near one of their downtown locations.  But while I was out of town the good folks at Joe opened up their 5th location…a short 4 blocks away.  Uh oh…looks like my caffeine intake will be increasing…

OK, getting back to wine, I have been thinking a lot about terroir, natural wines, non-manipulated (unmanipulated?) wines, etc.

I have also been thinking a lot about wines that really get me to say “wow”!

These “wow” wines, and those “terroir” OR “natural” OR “unmanipulated” wines are neither mutually exclusive nor are they necessarily related.  I’ll attempt to differentiate as much as possible in a future post.

But today I bring this up as I (sort of) attended a “natural wine tasting” today.  I say “sort of” as I was accused of being a party crasher at the tasting, and I was subsequently “thrown out”.  While I will readily admit that I was not invited by the host, I was invited by an invited guest.  Disappointed I may have been, a wise man recently told me that he does not care to be where he is not wanted.

I did however have the opportunity to taste several of these “natural wines” before my premature departure.  But I found quite a few of them not only to be un-manipulated but also without any personality.  No fruit or oak aromas or flavors and frankly not much of anything but an OVERLY understated and non-descript wine.

HOWEVER, as much as I may prefer not to admit it, I did find an unusually high percentage of wines that were in fact WOW wines.  When I think of WOW wines I am speaking about wines that are in some way unique, often times complex, and really catch me by surprise.  I tried red & white, dry and sweet, and several of them showed subtle complexity with unusual aromas and flavors.  This is what gets me to go WOW.  Your WOW wine can be a drastically different wine.  As long as the wine excites you and get you to say WOW (or “holy crap” &/or a host of other possibilities).

Two producers whose wines I think are worth mentioning are those of Cristiano Guttarolo as well as Francois Pinon.  Guttarolo poured some Primitivo’s (AKA Zinfandel), each aged in different vessels; one in Amphora (clay vessels), one in stainless steel & a third in large barriques.  While the two still wines of Pinon were of interest as I picked up a hint of sweetness – that “hint” that actually turned out to be A LOT (17 grams RS) of sugar  that was balanced beautifully by a terrific acidity (each with a beautiful bouquet to add to the WOW factor).

As I continue to process the often times “elitist” quest for natural and terroir driven wines I promise to discuss in greater detail.  But in the meantime…

Happy “WOW” wine tasting!


Visit to “Terroir”

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Those of you who are regular readers are probably familiar with the term Terroir.  As such, you may be confused by my claimed ability to go visit what is loosely described as “a sense of place”.  Fear not, I haven’t COMPLETELY lost it – only partially…          


Having cleared that up, what I did visit last night was the WINE BAR “Terroir”.  Terroir is located on East 12th Street in what is considered to be the East Village, near Tompkins Square Park.  It is a pretty cool area, but the bar is in the middle of a block, a bit hard to find, and really in the middle of nowhere.  Yet, on a holiday weekend, Sunday night, IT WAS PACKED!  WHY????

The place is at first glance nothing special.  Some bizarre t-shirts adorning one wall combined with its somewhat psychedelic menu make this place original, but why is it packed??  The place probably only seats about 25 people between the bar and the 1 communal table so I suppose filling such a small place is easier than a space that seats 125.  The prices seemed a bit high and there is a clear biased to Rieslings – not that there is anything wrong with that.  At first, the crowd made very little sense to me…

But then I got down to business with my fellow wine club members and started tasting.  WOW!  To begin with, our server (Emily) was great.  She was warm, sweet, patient and quite knowledgeable (or so she seemed).  As a bunch of winos, rather than buying a bottle or even glasses we opted for tastes – 3 oz. pours that allowed us to sample a variety of wines.  I took my cue from Emily and a fellow wine club buddy when coming up with my choices.  And while all the recommendations weren’t perfect, having tiny samples before selecting ensured that I was happy with what I ended up with.

We finished the night with a pretty hefty bill, but I tasted 8 or 9 different wines, drinking 6 of them and really enjoyed myself.

The wines I tasted without tasting notes – sorry, wasn’t that kind of tasting…

Muscadet – Sevre & Maine, Cuvee Medaillee, Pierre Luneau, 1995, Loire Valley (100% Melon de borgogne).

Pinot Gris – Cuvee Cecile, Lucien Albreacht, 2004, Alcase.

Chablis – Bel Air Et Clardy, 2006, de Moor (100% Chardonnay)

Riesling – Spatlese, Rudesheimer Berg Rottland, Ehrhard, 1990, Rheingau.

All very nice wines, yet the Riesling was unbelievable, especially for a 1990 – or maybe because it was a 1990???

Moving on to reds, I was feeling pretty good at this point, and ended up trying about 4 reds.  I did not care for 2 of them that friends did in fact enjoy, but thoroughly enjoyed the other two.

Not my favorite was the dirty/barnyardy 2000 Moulin-Tacussel Southern Rhone Chateauneuf-du-Pape or the fruitless the 2005 Monthelie, Cuvee Paul, Paul Garaudet, Cote de Beaune.

Yet I did really enjoy two nice acidic and somewhat lighter reds.

The Saumur Champagny, Thierry Germain, 2005 Loire Valley 100% Cab Franc has nice subtle fruit, some herbaceous notes and a great acidity.

While the 100% St. Laurent (the name of the grape), Reserve, Forstreiter, 2005, Kremstat was a new varietal for me.  It was light yet it had some depth, minerality and a subtle fruitiness.

Overall a fun and educational wine tasting evening for the Wine Tasting Guy & friends…

Happy WACKY WINE BAR Wine Tasting!


Lab wine

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

This jet lag thing really has been a kick in the butt.  And it has prevented me from my usual 3AM blog posting.  My sincerest apologies o loyal readers.  You have my word, I will do my best to resume my sleep deprived ways and be better about posting on a regular basis.

That said, I was forwarded an article from a friend this morning.  The article, written for Bloomberg called “All That’s Wrong With Global Wine Is in This Bottle” and written by John Mariani,  touches on an issue that has come up a lot lately – that of generic, non-descript wines.  We have mentioned the term “terroir” before, well this is the exact opposite.  A wine that is made SO technically correct, that it no longer possesses any UNIQUE charachteristics.  Hence, a “lab wine”.

lab wine

It is no coincidence that the Argentinian wine being reviewed by Mariani is made at a newer winery that apparently uses the consulting services of Michel Rolland.  Roland is said to be a brilliant winemaker (consultant) but there are also those that say he is so brilliant in his precise methodology for making wine, that all the wines he consults for taste the same, regardless of their country of origin.  And THAT many people say, is a problem.

But is it?

On the one hand I COMPLETELY understand the desire of wine purists to taste the “terroir”, or the sense of place.  A wine made in France should taste of France (or the specific region within France where it was made).  A wine from Argentina should taste like Argentina.  A wine from Israel should taste like an Israeli wine.  When you are buying a product, and often paying a premium for said product, you don’t want to think that the same product could have been made (and purchased) from another place and possibly for a cheaper price.

But at the same time, when you eat a burger do you think about where the cow was grazing before he went to burger heaven and became your dinner (sorry if the visual is a bit too graphic)?  Do you wonder if the lemon wedge on your plate came from Florida or California?  What if it came from Central America?  Or the far east?  Does origin really matter outside of wine?  And does it matter for wine because some wine snobs told us it should??

I’m not sure what the answer is.  But I do know that if someone is making a wine and charging $50 for it and I am told I can get virtually THE SAME wine (made in another place or even country) for $25, I’d buy the $25 one…

Happy unique wine tasting and have a great week!


Israeli wine terroir

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

I mentioned “terroir” in my last post.  I’m sorry for repeating something just mentioned, but since it is not a common expression outside of wine circles let me reiterate.  “Terroir” is described by Wikipedia as “a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it”.  These “aspects” could include soil, weather, altitude, etc…


I bring up terroir again as it is a buzz word within the wine world.  It is also a word that I am CERTAIN has great relevance when it comes to Israeli wines. 

I believe that when not manipulated too much Israeli wines are an incredible combination of new world and old world.  They possess earthy old world qualities in addition to fruity new world qualities.  And I think this is one of the amazing things about many Israeli wines and an important factor in making them so special.

Back to “terroir” though, I believe the concept of terroir is important to Israeli wines given that they possess sumptuously unique herbal qualities.  I have heard spices such as Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and sometimes even Mint used to describe Israeli wines.  I have also heard some describe (what I believe to be) this same herbally component as green olive.  I mention these unique and interesting descriptors before mentioning why I think recognizing these flavors and aromas is so important. 

I have been pounding the pavement of Manhattan selling Israeli wines the past few months and there have been a few people whose palates I respect who have described some of the Israeli wines I tasted with them as having a “green” quality.  This descriptor is not a positive one.  Sure some people like it (and they are certainly NOT wrong) but it indicates a wine that is either bitter, under-ripe (something that used to be very common with French and other cool climate wines) or simply overly herbaceous rather than fruity.  This “green” profile often occurs as a result of wines made from young, immature vines.  Or it may be a wine that has been pressed too much and bitterness is extracted from seeds and skins and have overpowered the fruit of the wine. 

Some well regarded wine critics have recently called many Israeli wines “green” (while at the same time praising the wines??).  And while I appreciate (and at times am envious of) their work, in general we all know how I feel about critics.  They certainly serve a purpose, but their influence has become too powerful (shame on us lay-wine-people).

Bottom line, call it what you will.  Israeli terroir.  Herbal.  Herbaceous.  Green.  WHO CARES.  Try it, and if you like it BUY SOME, BUY MORE, and TELL YOUR FRIENDS!!

Happy herbal Israeli wine tasting!


Wine scores

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Let me first apologize for my online absence.  No excuses, but…  There was Yom Kippur, the sabbath and the subsequent not-so-short FLIGHT TO ISRAEL!  Yes, I am here in the Holy Land.  I arrived yesterday, just a few hours prior to the beginning of the holiday of “Sukkot” – described by as “the ‘Feast of Booths’ (or Tabernacles), named for the huts (sukkah) that Moses and the Israelites lived in as they wandered the desert for 40 years before they reached the Promised Land”.


I am here in Israel for the holiday of course but also to spend time with family (my adorable niece…and her parents) and to work on my Israel wine project. 

While drinking wine with a wine industry friend this afternoon in his Succah I admitted that my palate was still not where I would like it to be.  He surprisingly asked why I felt that way.  I explained that I felt I could decipher between an 80 and 85 point wine and an 85 and 90 point wine.  BUT, I still feel like I struggle to truly decipher the supposed subtle differences between 90 point wines and 93 point wines.  To which he made a face and basically said HOGWASH!

Which of course got me thinking.  There is so much talk of scores as they relate to wines.  And I have written about scores here before.  SO, is there a difference between a wine given a score of 90 and a wine given a score of 93???

The aforementioned friend theorized that much of it has to do with marketing.  Many of the wines I have seen that have been given those 2-3 extra points are single vineyard wines.  With the idea that the specific site possesses some unique characteristics and should not be blended and subsequently LOSE those distinct characteristics.  I have heard this to be true and I do believe it – to a certain extent.  This line of thought invoked the expression “terroir”, described by Wikipedia as “a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it”.

This post can go on and on about scores, their purpose, terroir, if it is real, etc.  But I don’t want to bore you with this debate.  I will sum up for now by saying that I have been thinking a lot about a new way to evaluate wines that will turn the traditional scoring method on its head.  It certainly will not replace the existing scoring method for those who use it to collect wines, drink high scoring wines, etc.  But I do expect that as I continue to flesh out the concept it will prove useful to casual wine drinkers.

Happy SCORELESS wine tasting (from Israel)!!