Of all the vineyard soils of the world, a dozen or so have acquired a designation of their own. Examples are New Zealand’s Gimblett Gravels (with their astonishing rise to fame), the albarizas of Spain’s sherry district (made of tiny but crucial “architectural marvels”), California’s enigmatic Rutherford Dust, the cherished Kimmeridgian of Chablis, and the spectacular terra rossa of Australia’s Coonawarra. The names probably mean little to most people but to wine enthusiasts they are features to celebrate, prompting images of exceptional places and wines of distinction. In this webinar, Alex Maltman will explore the stories and the science behind these five examples of elite vineyard soils, with names that are legendary in the world of wine.
Alex is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K. He has a decorated career in university teaching and research together with a long-standing interest in wine: for nearly fifty years Alex has grown vines and made wine at his home in Wales.
Alex’s scientific curiosity has always questioned things about wine including, inevitably, the fashionable but poorly understood relationship between wine and vineyard geology. This has led to publications in both the popular press and academic journals, and to various international lectures. Alex has contributed to a number of wine books, such as the Oxford Companion to Wine and the World Atlas of Wine, and is author of the acclaimed “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (Oxford University Press 2018).
This article is the first of an upcoming series by French neuroscientist Gabriel Lepousez. Gabriel is part of the Scientific Committee formed by WSG in the context of its "Architecture of Taste Research Project". He has also presented a fascinating segment on "The Neuroscience of Wine Tasting" as part of The Science of Wine Tasting Webinar Series which will resume with new episodes in the Spring of 2022.
There is a real paradox in the experience of tasting a product like wine. Tasting is such a familiar, instinctive, and seemingly obvious act; something that we take for granted. At the same time, wine is a one of the most complex sensory objects that we put into our mouths.
Indeed, wine is one of the rare sensory objects of our daily life which solicits all at the same time:
On the 6th of September 2021, Wine Scholar Guild hosted the first large-scale blind-tasting panel as part of its recently announced The Architecture of Taste Research Project.
Hosted at the Bristol Hotel in Colmar, Alsace, this panel tasting launched WSG’s research on the tactile and geosensorial tasting approach it developed over the past year.
The tasting was designed specifically to assess the experimental and innovative tasting grid that had been developed as part of the Architecture of Taste Research Project. Its eventual aim is a tactile and geosensorial tasting method which focuses on a wine’s energy, induced salivation, geometry/shape, texture, and consistency.
Such a tasting method would provide students of wine with an enriched and universal lexicon that not only assesses the qualities of a wine but also dives into the nature of a wine’s personality and, perhaps, its corresponding terroir signature.
The panel of tasters included owners or representatives of twenty top Alsace estates such as Albert Boxler, Weinbach, Marcel Deiss and Albert Mann. They were joined by a dozen wine professionals, including Pascaline Lepeltier MOF, a member of the ATRP Scientific Committee, as well as a dozen serious wine lovers. All in all, over 45 panelists participated in the tasting.
In order to understand better the specificities that leaded not only to the present-day landscape, but also to the soil and subsoil nature and diversity of the French vineyard, a travel in the past times is necessary, in order to understand all the key events that occurred during the hundreds of million years of the geological history. Being aware than a lagoon, a tidal influenced shoreline, a broad river, a collision between two tectonic plates, the occurrence of a tropical climate… or ice ages let to a better comprehension of the identity of each French vine-region.
As told by Françoise:
After studying both at university and the French Insitute of Petroleum (IFP, -École Nationale Supérieure du Pétrole et des Moteurs-), I worked for an oil company until 2000, when my family moved to Burgundy. In this renowned wine country, I decided to transfer my geological skills to the study of “terroir”. I successfully completed a one-year diploma in Wine-tasting and Terroir at the University of Burgundy, (Dijon, France), I now work as a consultant. My new career as a consultant began in 2003, and since March, 2015, with adama, a little company dedicated to the vineyard terroirs. Since 2019, I also work for Terroir Invest, a society dedicated to the sale of vineyard estates.
I performed numerous studies along both Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune, for the renewing vineyard of Dijon, and for Marsannay, Fixin, Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis, Chambolle-Musigny, Pommard, Santenay, Les Maranges, further south for Lugny (Mâconais), or for Coulanges-la-Vineuse to the North (Yonne), but also elsewhere in France, especially with a starting project in the Val de Loire (Sancerre). I have also produced several preliminary technical reports to reclassify certain plots at a higher appellation level (communale for Lugny, 14 premiers crus for Marsannay, and a grand cru for Les Saint-Georges and other AOP). I also work for foreign estates (Chile, Japan, USA -California-, Italy...) in order to characterize the soil and the subsoil, and for terroir expertise.
Sharing my scientific experience, my expertise and my knowledge of the Burgundy vineyard either in French or in English, with students (University of Burgundy, Burgundy School of Business, Lycée Viticole de Beaune, ISARA…) winegrowers, people working in and around wine, and for wine-lovers (e.g. the “Master class” of Allen Meadows, the “Masters of Wine”, the “Académie du Vin” of Tokyo and Paris, Jasper Morris MW (Berry Bros and Rudd) and for Anthony Hanson (Christies in London) la Paulée de New York (Daniel Johnes) and so many others…) is a key goal in my work, which has become more of a vocation than a profession. Burgundy needs ambassadors to promote a scientifically grounded in-depth knowledge of terroir. I have given many presentations and organised field trips both in French and in English for the scientific community (International Terroir Congress, 2012), wine professionals, tourists and wine-lover associations.
I have contributed to the geological chapters in Remington Norman’s (UK) book “Grand Cru”, to several articles in “Le Rouge & le Blanc”, “La Revue des Vins de France”, “le Maagzine” of Ficofi; I am now in-house expert for terroir geology in “Bourgogne Aujourd’hui”. I drew the cross-sections geological maps in “The wines of Burgundy” by Sylvain Pitiot and Jean-Charles Servant, and I have done some posters for the Saint-Vincent in Saint-Aubin (January, 2014). Most of my works are available through the educative website http://monocepage.com. I provide information for CDs or websites for numerous estates, highlighting the characteristics of terroir, booklets for some appellations of both Côte de Nuits and Côte de Beaune. I was the subject of a four-page interview paper in the January 2014 issue of Decanter magazine.
Terroir has often been defined as an untranslatable French concept with somewhat mystical attributes. Some wine experts view terroir as a an over-hyped myth, while others consider it to be primarily responsible for the unique sensory characteristics and distinctiveness of wines. This webinar will explore how the concept of terroir has evolved over time, and how it is currently defined. Examples of the misuse of the term for marketing will be highlighted as well as the scientific validation of terroir.
Presenter: Dr Kevin R. Pogue
Dr. Kevin R. Pogue has been a professor in the Department of Geology at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington for over 30 years. Dr. Pogue’s research is primarily focused on variations in growing conditions related to vineyard topography, climate, and soil chemistry. He has presented papers at national and international terroir conferences and his research has been featured in the New York Times and on National Public Radio's "Science Friday". He has authored five petitions for federally-sanctioned American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and was honored with the Walter Clore award by the Washington State Wine Commission for his “significant dedication to the advancement of the Washington wine industry as an ambassador, mentor, and champion of Washington wines.” Dr. Pogue provides vineyard site evaluations, AVA petitions, terroir-related web content, and promotional and educational materials through VinTerra, his consulting business.
You can find him online here:
This webinar will dig into the basics of rocks and soil, and their respective roles in defining a site’s terroir. This discussion will give you the terms, tools, and scientific foundation to discuss terroir like a pro. We will explore the different types of rocks, how they form, and in which wine regions across the globe you can expect to find them. We will also discuss the difference between bedrock, soil, and subsoil in order to understand how soils form and how they support plant life. Finally, we will review the concept of terroir, and how the geology of a region can influence the character of its wine.
Brenna Quigley is a geologist and terroir specialist committed to thoughtfully applying the science of geology to the world of wine. She works with wine professionals in all areas of the trade in order to precisely understand and define the most impactful elements of terroir. Currently based in Napa, CA Brenna has experience around the world including France, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Oregon. She is passionate about making the science of geology accessible to sommeliers and vigneron alike, in order to promote a better understanding of the world around us, and highlight how wine can help us appreciate our dynamic planet. Her websites are brennaquigley.com and roadsideterroir.com
Our fifth edition of WSG Live features the Chilean terroir consultant Dr. Pedro Parra.
Since earning his doctorate in 2004 in Terroirs Viticoles from the Ecole d'Agriculture de Grignon (now part of AgroParisTech), Pedro has travelled the world consulting for many of today's leading wineries, including Liger-Belair and Roulot in Burgundy, Biondi-Santi and Argiano in Montalcino, Quintessa in Napa, Marengo in Barolo, Comando G in Gredos and Altos Los Hormigas in Mendoza.
His approach to soil studies is unique, combining as it does scientific analyses and detailed site mapping with an intuitive understanding and original reasoning, and always validating his insights with tasting in his quest for minerality (a term he uses freely), tension and freshness.
Since 2013, too, he has made his own wines in his native Chile, in Itata.
Join Andrew Jefford on TUESDAY, May 18th at 12:00 noon ET for a passionate discussion about Pedro's work and his ideas surrounding terroir!
Is a wine horizontal or vertical? Square or round? Hollow or dense? Relaxed or tensed? Grainy or smooth? This is a small sample of GeoSensorial Tasting vocabulary — a method that seeks to empower the taster to feel, interpret and give voice to wines of place.
By focusing on mouthfeel and assessment criteria such as energy, salivation, geometry, texture and consistency, this methodology helps you to better understand the nuances that a specific terroir, among other factors, brings to wine and helps you to express those nuances. It puts light on how, for example, Chenin Blanc wines from the schist soils of Savennières, the tuffeau of Saumur and the flint-clay and limestone-clay of Vouvray differ from one another. Quite an ambitious undertaking!