The best or the most practical terroir? | New Brief out, #199

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Per Karlsson portrait Britt Karlsson portraitThe best or the most practical terroir?

The world’s classic wines come from places, usually in France, which have been praised for so long that it is difficult to say if the first vines were planted there because it was the best terroir or because it was simply the most practical place to plant. Maybe the soil was too poor for anything else, maybe the slopes were not suitable for pasture, maybe the closeness to a river facilitated the transport of the wine to the nearest town. The rivers probably had more significance as a transport route than as a “mirror” to reflect the heat of the sun.

Of course, such aspects were important for the first winegrowers. Probably practical considerations have played a greater role in shaping the wine culture than we think.

My thoughts went in this direction when we were in South Africa in February and met the French winemaker at the Holden Manz Winery in Franschhoek. Thierry, as is his name, told us about how the wine industry is progressing in South Africa. How it changes from being just Bordeaux-influenced to become more terroir-influenced.

Does that mean we can now tell if a wine comes from Stellenbosch or Franschhoek? Maybe not. Most probably not. Terroir is one of those interesting wine words that, although it can be explained (maybe), it is still very much an abstract concept. Because a wine can be a terroir wine even if you cannot identify its origin. It is more a question of getting the impression that the wine has an origin. This is not as strange as it sounds. Terroir wine becomes the opposite of streamlined wine.

Probably Thierry simply meant that the winemakers in South Africa should now make wine according to the conditions you have in South Africa, not copy the conditions that they have in Bordeaux (which, of course, are completely different). Maybe Cabernet Sauvignon should be replaced with other red grapes. Maybe the French barriques should be thrown out of the cellar. This is a golden opportunity to see which grapes should be planted where. Without preconceptions. And with more tools available than the monks had in the Middle Ages.

The Corona virus has turned the world upside down including our travel planning. As you probably understand, our spring tours are cancelled. We have made three winter tours, to Chile-Argentina, South Africa and New Zealand. The last one was a very special experience as the country decided on a “lock-down” the day after the tour ended. It was a bigger adventure than expected, although New Zealand is probably one of the safest places in the world at the moment.

So, for the rest of the spring, we have cancelled all tours. Not an easy decision but of course inevitable.

We hope things will look better in the autumn and hope that your desire to travel will come back as soon as the world situation has stabilized. Further on in the Brief, you can read more about our tours in September and October as well as our long-distance tours to the southern hemisphere in early 2021.

We will soon start planning for the rest of the year 2021. If you have any thoughts or ideas about new travel destinations, do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

During this time when we all stay at home; we hope you can keep up your wine enthusiasm by reading more of what we write about wine on BKWine Magazine.

Britt & Per

PS: Recommend to your friends to read the Brief!

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We also make custom designed wine tours – on-demand tours for you and a group of friends, for your company (maybe to scout new winegrowers?), for a special event… We can combine winery visits and wine touring with other activities: gastronomic workshops, visit to an oyster farm, truffles hunting, cheese making, and more. More info on the custom designed and bespoke BKWine wine tours and travel here!

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All our books are on wine, but on different subjects: wines of the Languedoc, wine growing and wine making, the wines of France, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Piedmont, Burgundy, Champagne. Several have won prestigeous prizes and awards. Read more on our wine books.

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