Where are you from, Stranger? Having a sense of place provides us with a tangible descriptor of our own selves and the people we meet. This sense of place quite often applies to many things we experience in our lives. It gives us a reference point and a sense of commonality which allows us to to readily identify with one another. The language we speak or the peculiar or unique accents of our speech allows us to recognize that we come from a particular place.
Wine, too, shares a reference to place that is similar to own own. For wine, "place," or "terroir" is very important, and the term "terroir" refers to the distinctive characteristics of the fruit grown and transformed into wine from a particular place. Can you tell if the wine you taste comes from the old or new world? Possibly France or Spain, or is it a wine grown and produced in California? Can you describe the clues that your wine expresses?
I recently had the pleasure of observing five master sommelier describe wines "blind." When I say "blind" what I mean is that the master sommelier would taste the wines and then describe and identify these wines without any prior knowledge about any of them. I especially enjoyed the deductive processes of these wine masters and I would like to share a valuable lesson I learned from one of them. During one of the blind tastings the master sommelier lifted his glass of red wine and said, " I can see that I do not have a white wine here." Brilliant comedy, thought I, somewhat sarcastically. But then I was soon amazed because each of the masters, employing their powers of deduction, were able to correctly name the varietal, vintage and origin of the wine.
As we head into the Holidays, which oftentimes calls us back to our own origins, what does our sense of place mean to us? Has our "terroir" shaped our character, and if so, how? Certainly, our environment has some impact on our personality. How would you go about describing your home? I suppose describing a wine's "character" (dark or light, heavy or thin, fragrant or flinty and so forth and so on) illustrates the importance of terroir that a winemaker takes into consideration when attempting to produce a fine wine. Thus terroir is the foundation that crafts the basic character of a wine such that allows us to eventually learn how to distinguish the differences between a Cabernet Sauvignon grown in California with those grown in Bordeaux, France. So lift your glass with a smile because everyone like every wine comes from somewhere.