Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Terroir

The little village of St Emilion has interesting soil. And the way the vignerons feel about making wine, it suits.
They say "the vine must struggle for life" and everything I saw today seems consistent with that. I saw no irrigation, so the vines survive on natural rainfall. Then there's the soil structure. They said it's a gravelly loam, then at about 1.5m there's a very thick (metres) layer of limestone which let's the water seep through it, then heavy clay. Much of the limestone was extracted for construction, which meant there were stones on the top (buildings) and holes underneath. Holes that got used as underground monuments and cellars.

So the vines put their roots down easily through the loam and as they get older, they force their roots into the porous limestone. So I would guess the little vines have great resilience. When we were down in the cellars I saw the evidence - a great deal of very fine roots making their way into the cave through the limestone walls.

This is certainly a place that is perfectly designed for making wine. A combination of soil, weather, culture that makes it just right. The word for it is "Terroir". So I finish with the lament of my new French friend Jean-Eric Pelet who saw a modern trendy cafe in St Emilion:

Where is the terroir?
 Oh, there it is...

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