An Ever Changing Terroir

We’re not supposed to use the word ‘terroir’ anymore is what I heard. I think it’s because the word is elitist? But here’s another thing about terroir, it’s constantly changing. Even if we just call it the environment, the whole of the soil, climate, temperature, water source, altitude, latitude and all the other things that influence the growth of the grapes, it’s still changing, constantly changing.

Terroir is a biosphere of unplanned interaction. The constancy of uncertainty is part of its identity.

Chateau d’Issan was established in the 12th century. According to their website the wine was served at the wedding of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henri Plantagenet This was 400 years before the Dutch drained the marshes around Bordeaux changing the soils of the area and creating a much different terroir. 200 years after that there was a change in focus for grapes. In the early 1800’s right bank Bordeaux went from being Malbec dominant to becoming Cabernet Sauvignon dominant. 150 years later heat hearty grapes have been added to the list of allowed grapes in Bordeaux to adjust to global warming and the changes it is making to terroir.

Chateau d’Issan is a third growth in the 1855 classification. The 2017 has aromas of deep, rich black cherries and black plums, violets, spice, black tea and bitter dark chocolate. It’s a very elegant and graceful wine. It’s young and will change and evolve for decades.

Terroir changes. Wines evolve. Change becomes part of the terroir of the wine.

Is the Brett Experience Gender Specific?

I brought a 2014 Larrivet Haut-Brion Passac-LĂ©ognan Bordeaux to wine group today. It had been a few years since I’ve tasted this wine, but I remember it being very earthy.

“I smell horse blanket,” said a male in the group.

“Yeah, it smells funky,” said the other male in the group.

“I get tobacco,” said the other female.

“I get wet coffee grounds,” I interjected.

We were all smelling and tasting Brettanomyces, but we all experienced it a little differently. The females in the group liked it. We agreed it gave the wine a nice earthy flavor. The males in the group, not so much.

It reminded me of a Bordeaux seminar I attended at a Society of Wine Educators Conference a few years ago. There we tasted through several Bordeaux A few had Brettanomyces or Brett on them. In a room of about 40 people, it seemed almost all the men smelled barnyard, horse blanket or horse’s rear end. But we women tasted an earthy savoriness like wet coffee grounds, compost, or tobacco. We liked how the savory note gave the wine an added dimension.

I hate to generalize especially at the risk of sounding sexist, but it seems to me that in general, men and women experience Brettanomyces very differently. To test my theory, I brought the wine home to see how my husband, a male, would react to the Brett. He didn’t like it. He decidedly got horse blanket, rear end even. But I thought the faint hint of wet coffee grounds was perfect with the dried herbs, tart red fruit, and potpourri flavors in the wine. And it all went beautifully with braised short ribs.

How do you experience Brettanomyces in wine? Do you get horse blanket or coffee grounds? Do you like it? And is my gender theory correct?