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Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Nov 04, 2012 1:40 pm

If eucalyptus leaves are responsible for the eucalyptus notes in some Australian wines, could the garrigue notes in wine from South France be due to bits of garrigue vegetation? And do these flavours count as terroir?

http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/3927
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Bob Parsons Alberta » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:02 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:If eucalyptus leaves are responsible for the eucalyptus notes in some Australian wines, could the garrigue notes in wine from South France be due to bits of garrigue vegetation? And do these flavours count as terroir?

http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/3927


Very good question Steve, sure to get a response. Me, I am all for the terroir argument. :wink:

There is some good stuff on that blog btw.
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Yup....

by TomHill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 3:18 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:If eucalyptus leaves are responsible for the eucalyptus notes in some Australian wines, could the garrigue notes in wine from South France be due to bits of garrigue vegetation? And do these flavours count as terroir?
http://www.winenous.co.uk/wp/archives/3927


Eucalyptus trees spew out an oil into the air that settles onto the skin of the grapes and imparts a minty/eucalyptus character to the wine.
That's pretty well known.
In the MimbresVlly AVA, there is a lot of sagebrush & chamisa. They (according to DarrellCorti) expell into the air certain oils that settles
on the Paola d'Andrea Vnyd grapes and gives many of the reds there a distinct pungent sage & chamisa flavor.
I would suspect the garrigue plants (rosemary, lavender, thyme,etc) similarly emit oils that do the same for SouthernRhone wines.

Is it part of the terroir?? Why of course, it is. It's just a reflection of the climate & soils of that particular vnyd, and the ambient oils are all
part and parcel of that. You take down the eucalyptus trees (as did ClarkeSwanson) and..voila...the terroir is changed and no more eucalyptus
notes in the wines. You add a ton of Nitrogen fertilizer or sheep $hit to the soil...you've modified the terroir and it will be reflected
in the character of the wines (if it's PinotNoir/Nebbiolo/Riesling/CabernetSauvignon...grapes we've been told by certain "authorities" reflect their terroir more
than any other varieties). But, obviously, that's part&parcel of the terroir.

SeanThackery's winery is right in the heart of a eucalyptus grove in Bolinas. I often find distinct menthol/eucalyptus notes in his wines. Is that
part of the terroir?? Friggin' no, it's not a reflection of the vnyd from which the grapes came from. It's an external/winemaker addition
of eucalyptus. And we know that winemaker additions are not part of terroir.

So.....to you original question, Steve....is the eucalyptus/garrigue/sage part of terroir??? To tell the truth, I, personally, don't really care if it is or not.
It's not a question I find worth arguing over. How many angels dance on the head of a pin?? Something I don't really care about.
However, if you're one who worships at the altar of terroir...one who deems the highest calling of any wine is to reflect the terroir of the grape's
vnyd...then the "correct" answer to your question is of life or death urgency. Alas...I think that those folks who worship at the altar of terroir
are worshiping a false god.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Nov 04, 2012 5:58 pm

Tom

In many ways I am like you in your attitude to terroir. But I am interested in the sense that it challenged my thinking, and I wondered what other responses might be.

If you chase through the links, you will see that the recent research suggests it is bits of tree, rather than oil, that transmits the aroma. I think that is of relevance for the terroir question, because with a bit more care on the sorting table the eucalyptus (and perhaps garrigue) aroma could be eliminated.

If I understand you right you say that the effects of eucalyptus oils are NOT terroir, but sagebrush & chamisa oils ARE terroir. Why one but not the other? Did Sean Thackery actually plant the eucalyptus?
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OK....

by TomHill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 6:19 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:Tom
In many ways I am like you in your attitude to terroir. But I am interested in the sense that it challenged my thinking, and I wondered what other responses might be.
If you chase through the links, you will see that the recent research suggests it is bits of tree, rather than oil, that transmits the aroma. I think that is of relevance for the terroir question, because with a bit more care on the sorting table the eucalyptus (and perhaps garrigue) aroma could be eliminated.
If I understand you right you say that the effects of eucalyptus oils are NOT terroir, but sagebrush & chamisa oils ARE terroir. Why one but not the other? Did the grower actually plant the eucalyptus?


Steve,
Just read thru her original paper. She does acknowledge airbourne oils as one pathway to eucalyptus in the wine,
but asserts that the MOG is the primary pathway. At least for the Oz wines she examined. I guess I have no problem
w/ that conclusion. Grapes harvested in Oz are much more commonly harvested by mechanical harvesters, which can yield
fairly high levels of MOG. But the Calif examples that I can recall were definitely not harvested by machines, and, presumably,
much/much lower in MOG. The bins I've observed in Calif w/ picked grapes, both in person and from pictures, look remarkably free
of MOG. Which, in Calif, leaves the air-bourne oil pathway as the primary mechanism.

And I forgot to add in my reply....what about the ladybug issue back East imparting a very foul ladybug taint to those wines in certain yrs.
Is that part of their terroir as well???
And how about the smoke taint in some of those Calif wines that yr of the fires ('09?). Surely....surely...that must be part of the terroir as well??

Just [stirthepot.gif] [raisenhell.gif] [beingajerk.gif]

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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:13 pm

Indeed Tom, airbourne oils were acknowledged as a possibility.

The article I linked to is a bit vague, but it seems imply that even the low quantitities of MOG in hand-harvested grapes were enough to impart eucalyptus aromas to the wine.

As for lady bugs and fires - I think they are more vintage character than terroir aren't they? :wink:

Can you give me a link to the original research Tom?
Last edited by Steve Slatcher on Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Yeah....

by TomHill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:16 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:Indeed Tom, airbourne oils were acknowledged as a possibility.

The article I linked to is a bit vague, but it seems imply that even the low quantitities of MOG in hand-harvested grapes were enough to impart eucalyptus aromas to the wine.

As for lady bugs and fires - I think they are more vintage character than terroir aren't they? :wink:


Yeah....no argument there, Steve. I was just sorta jerking peoples chains...something I occasionally do.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:19 pm

Asking again in case you missed my edit above: Can you give me a link to the original research Tom? Cheers.
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'Tall Depends....

by TomHill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:32 pm

Steve Slatcher wrote:Tom

In many ways I am like you in your attitude to terroir. But I am interested in the sense that it challenged my thinking, and I wondered what other responses might be.

If you chase through the links, you will see that the recent research suggests it is bits of tree, rather than oil, that transmits the aroma. I think that is of relevance for the terroir question, because with a bit more care on the sorting table the eucalyptus (and perhaps garrigue) aroma could be eliminated.

If I understand you right you say that the effects of eucalyptus oils are NOT terroir, but sagebrush & chamisa oils ARE terroir. Why one but not the other? Did Sean Thackery actually plant the eucalyptus?


Sorry, didn't catch that, Steve. What I was trying to say if the eucalyptus oil came from the locale of where the grapes grow, than it is "terroir". If it comes from the air in the locale
where the wine was made, or if it comes from the winemaker adding eucalyptus oil during the winemaking, than I would claim it is not "terroir". Wether it is "terroir" or not;
I don't think is worth arguing or dogmatizing over.
I cannot cite any original research that the eucalyptus character in wines from around eucalyptus comes oils in the air. I've just heard anecdotal claims from various
winemakers and a statement drom DarrelCorti to that effect.
Sean's wnry is (or was) in pole barns in his back yard of his home in Bolinas, not far from the edge of BolinasBay, right smack dab in the middle of this huge eucalyptus
grove. When I visited him yrs ago, the smell of those trees is what really struck me. Very pungent and exotic...stirs the mind of places far/far away. The grove was an old stand
that I'm certain he did not plant.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Oliver McCrum » Sun Nov 04, 2012 7:42 pm

Great thread.

I was absentmindedly looking at the edge of a Vermentino di Gallura vineyards in Sardinia and realised that it was entirely surrounded by the Italian equivalent of garrigue, the flavors of which are undeniably present in the wines from that vineyard. I can't believe it took me that long to realised it was no coincidence.

The grapes are hand-picked, my assumption is that the oils are carried by the wind from the plants onto the bunches.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Ian Sutton » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:33 pm

Yes smoke taint is a perfect demonstration that airborne aromas / particles can significantly affect the end wine.

FWIW I don't see terroir as static. Weather systems change, which can affect not just the sun/rain, but also the wider water table. Other agriculture any come & go, other airborne yeasts may change, etc, etc. A great site traditionally might just get too hot / too wet / etc if the weather changes other than just seasonal variation - and in time might no longer be a great site.

So the fact that someone has a lavendar farm next door, that for me would fit in terroir, as would proximity to a main road, petrochemical works, or some lunatic who likes flying his crop-duster once a month.
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Hmmmm....

by TomHill » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:08 pm

Ian Sutton wrote:Yes smoke taint is a perfect demonstration that airborne aromas / particles can significantly affect the end wine.

FWIW I don't see terroir as static. Weather systems change, which can affect not just the sun/rain, but also the wider water table. Other agriculture any come & go, other airborne yeasts may change, etc, etc. A great site traditionally might just get too hot / too wet / etc if the weather changes other than just seasonal variation - and in time might no longer be a great site.

So the fact that someone has a lavendar farm next door, that for me would fit in terroir, as would proximity to a main road, petrochemical works, or some lunatic who likes flying his crop-duster once a month.


Now there's a thought, Ian. I could not think of what was once regarded as a "great" (by whatever definition) site that is no longer
regarded as "great". But I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box and I'm sure better minds could think of some.
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Re: 'Tall Depends....

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Nov 05, 2012 4:16 am

TomHill wrote:
Steve Slatcher wrote:Tom

If I understand you right you say that the effects of eucalyptus oils are NOT terroir, but sagebrush & chamisa oils ARE terroir. Why one but not the other? Did Sean Thackery actually plant the eucalyptus?


Sorry, didn't catch that, Steve. What I was trying to say if the eucalyptus oil came from the locale of where the grapes grow, than it is "terroir". If it comes from the air in the locale
where the wine was made, or if it comes from the winemaker adding eucalyptus oil during the winemaking, than I would claim it is not "terroir". Wether it is "terroir" or not;
I don't think is worth arguing or dogmatizing over.

OK, I understand now. And I understand your point about arguing and dogmatising.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Nov 05, 2012 4:22 am

Ian Sutton wrote:FWIW I don't see terroir as static. Weather systems change, which can affect not just the sun/rain, but also the wider water table. Other agriculture any come & go, other airborne yeasts may change, etc, etc. A great site traditionally might just get too hot / too wet / etc if the weather changes other than just seasonal variation - and in time might no longer be a great site.

You are of course correct. Wine growers also adjust the terrain of their vineyards, by changing terracing for example, and clearing rocks so they can expand their plantings. But the romantic view of terroir does seem to me to imply a long-term invariant influence on wine.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Mon Nov 05, 2012 6:15 am

These days terroir seems to be a universally positive thing too - the more terroir in the wine the better. Not true with eucalyptus leaves I'd suggest - winemaker intervention to pull most of them out is probably a good thing. Also not true if your grapes come from a less good vineyard.
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Re: Hmmmm....

by Ian Sutton » Mon Nov 05, 2012 5:12 pm

TomHill wrote:Now there's a thought, Ian. I could not think of what was once regarded as a "great" (by whatever definition) site that is no longer
regarded as "great". But I'm not the sharpest pencil in the box and I'm sure better minds could think of some.
Tom

Some of the originally sought-after Australian sites are no longer held in the same esteem, plus plenty that were considered useless, that are now the place to be. FWIW I reckon that says more about fashions/trends than terroir as such. However the ongoing water issues can have a significant effect on 'terroir', not least in the Langhorne Creek, where the old practice of flooding the vineyards in winter has (I believe) now been stopped.
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Victorwine » Mon Nov 05, 2012 8:49 pm

Hi Steve,
Great Topic!
This bulletin from ETS Labs might be of interest,

http://www.etslabs.com/assets/PTB008-Mo ... 20Wine.pdf

Salute
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Steve Slatcher » Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:18 am

Victorwine wrote:This bulletin from ETS Labs might be of interest,

http://www.etslabs.com/assets/PTB008-Mo ... 20Wine.pdf

Thanks for that. The final sentence hints at another mechanism for "terroir" change: "Vineyard managers can use this tool to characterize vineyards close to eucalyptus groves and assess the impact of eucalyptus tree removal."
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Re: Eucalyptus, garrigue and the concept of terroir

by Ben Rotter » Tue Nov 06, 2012 4:52 am

Interesting topic, and one I have often pondered on.

It's been anecdotally know/observed that aromas from plants like eucalyptus (seemingly those with waxy cuticles) can scent grapes by air-borne transfer for a long time, but it's nice to see some hard scientific research on the topic. Thanks for the reference, Steve.

I would certainly view such an effect as ascribable to the impact of terroir, and I also view any specific site's terroir to be transient.


TomHill wrote:if you're one who worships at the altar of terroir...one who deems the highest calling of any wine is to reflect the terroir of the grape's vnyd... [...] I think that those folks who worship at the altar of terroir are worshiping a false god.

Interesting point (or perhaps I should call it an observation).

I think there's absolute validity in the concept of terroir (i.e., of farmed products reflecting their local physical environment), I just think many people use the term in a sense in which it becomes so subjective that it loses meaning. An example of the latter being winemakers who claim that they "do nothing", letting the fruit speak entirely for itself, as if there were no interpretation or manipulation of the product at all. To put it another way, how much eucalyptus character (even if it's from air-borne sources only, i.e., from the terroir) should be in a wine for it to be "showing its terroir"? Any definitive answer to that question is surely a subjective one that is open to interpretation.

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