Author: Matt Rice, Director of Tasting Rooms at Europa Village, Certified Specialist of Wine through the Society of Wine Educators, California Wine Appellation Specialist through the San Francisco Wine School.
As I walk through the vineyards this August, I feel the effects of the terroir through my five senses.
I glance briefly at the ever-present sun, gleaming down and bringing sweat to my brow as it works in harmony with the vine to deliver sugars to the lovely grapes I pass.
The wind blows through the vineyards and whistles a bit in my ears, indicating the evening cooling is close at hand.
The aroma of the hot stones I step over, alive with minerals, wafts into my nose.
The wood of the vine is rough and pleasantly brittle as I grasp it and bend down to look at the gleaming blue-black cluster of grapes.
As I bite into the grape, I can taste its potential, sweet and rich, but powerful and tannic at the same time.
Taking the small seeds into my hand I can see that they are brown, the grapes are fully mature and ready to begin their next journey, becoming a delicious wine that I will taste and think back to this day, when I walked and tasted their potential.
Wine, like so many worthwhile things, doesn’t fit into our instant gratification culture. However, I find this to be pleasing on so many levels, if you have the patience.
The patience to plant a vine, wait the three, four or five years before it produces a usable crop.
The patience to shepherd the vine through the growing season. Pruning it to make sure the forthcoming fruit is in exactly the right place, dropping underripe or undesirable clusters of grapes to let the life force of the vine channel into only the best fruit.
The patience to wait until the dead of night, to pick the fruit cool and firm, ready to begin its transformation, through years of movement from the press, the fermentation tank and the barrel and finally into that gleaming glass of wine bringing joy and contemplation to the person who holds it.
This time of year is an exciting one in wine country. The grapes are ripe and plump, ready for harvest after many months of slow maturation under the watchful eye of talented vineyard managers and the ever-present sun for which they stretch forth from the earth.
This time of the year is also my favorite because it means I get to try wine before it is anywhere close to becoming wine, that is, tasting the almost-ready grapes to see what the heat, light, wind, soil and elevation have produced. All these things combine to form a factor that the French call “terroir.” This catch-all word refers to the effect of the site on the final aromas, flavors and textures of the wine.
This time of year also signals the first of what will be many posts here. It is my intention to provide fun, short educational posts that you will enjoy reading and use to learn interesting things about wine.
With this piece I want you to realize how every sense we have, not just smell and taste, affect our enjoyment of a glass of wine.
Cheers to the commencement of another great harvest in Temecula Valley!