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Notes From the Edge

January 20, 2014 | TERROIR?

We attended a tasting seminar that featured Oregon Chardonnay. The seminar was MC’d by local wine writer Katherine Cole. She posited the suggestion that as we tasted, we might think about Correlation and Causality.  I was particularly intrigued by her Correlation/Causality suggestion. I’m not sure it was directly addressed and she didn’t have time to expand on the notion. But I’ve been puzzling on it since then.  I think what we’re dealing with is Terroir.

Tasting through the wines and listening to the winemakers talk about their various processes I would have to agree with a wine writer from San Francisco. He said while there were differences there was a greater stylistic similarity. If we limit our definition of Terroir to the physical environment of the vine—soil type, slope, microclimate, etc. we could correlate the differences in Terroir to the differences in the wines. But how to explain the stylistic similarity? What causes that?

 Maybe we need a broader definition of Terroir. One of the best definitions of Terroir I’ve run across is from Stefano Poni. He says, “Terroir is the ecology of a wine. The total, interrelated environment wherein a grapevine is cultivated for the purpose of making wine. Key factors include, but are not limited to, cultivar, soil, climate, vineyard location, planting density, training system, pruning philosophy and cultural and social milieu wherein the whole enterprise takes place.” Poni’s definition lets us correlate both the differences and the similarities in the Chardonnays we tasted.  Cultivar, soil, vineyard location, etc. can account for the differences and some of the similarities in the various wines. But I think it’s the cultural and social mileu within which the winemaking takes place that explains the greater stylistic similarity in the wines. I would argue that it’s the spirit of sharing, cooperation and mentoring that still takes place here in the Oregon wine industry that causes the stylistic similarity. 

 We’ve been growing Chardonnay for 25 plus years and making wine for nearly as long. I think our Chardonnay shares the stylistic similarity we tasted  in the presented wines–an Oregon-style Chardonnay. Though as with all the growers and winemakers we have our differences, it was that similarity that led me to meditate on Cole’s Correlation/Causality notion. I think Terroir, as defined by Stefano Poni,  is what correlates cause and effect. Try some Oregon Chardonnay and  see if you agree.





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