Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fair Play Terroir

I was thinking that once you are here in Fair Play and are enjoying some of the great wines from the many great wineries here, you'd wonder what makes the wines so great.We all know the winemaker slaves over his harvest, crush, fermentation and barrel aging, but most of us don't know about the Fair Play Terrior. That word is pronounced tar-war. Similar to pronunciation of Pinot Noir. After all, both are French. That means we have to say them the same way. I can't and I seldom try with any success.

Mastroserio Vineyards just finishing harvest, south facing slope.

So what is the Fair Play Terroir? I've just thrown in Fair Play as that is the area I'm writing about. Fair Play is an American Viticulture Appellation (AVA). That means Fair Play is now known as an area that has grapes grown which are unique to Fair Play; and if they are sold outside of Fair Play and are used as a varietal in wine, the label must say Fair Play. You've seen labels with Napa, Paso Robles, Sonoma,  etc. and then the name of the wine - Cabernet Sauvignon. The AVA labeling is a legal act that keeps grapes special for the area they were grown in. What makes the area where they are grown has all kinda of different elements. All those things thrown together are the Terroir.

Iverson Vineyard with Malbec vines on the east slope.

When using Fair Play Terroir together I am really speaking about the culture of the Fair Play wine industry. The terroir is really an inclusive word for all aspects of what makes the grapes, not only the wine. Many experts can agree on only a few elements of terroir, but most agree terroir is largely the soil, micro-climates, agricultural practices and the environment of the home of the grape vines. Discussions of terroir can incorporate proximity to mountain ranges like here in Fair Play or with closeness to rivers, headwaters, valleys, dormant or extinct volcanoes, mineral deposits, old-growth forests or strong ocean currents. Terroir is a blanket term for nearly everything that has or will affect the soil in which the grape roots will feed.

In a nutshell terroir is almost everything about where a grape vine is located and planted. A north facing slope above a river which is fed from a lake in a volcano crater has very distinct and different aspects of its growth than a vine planted on a south facing slope with little crevasses and loamy decomposed granite soils and large oak trees near by. From the toiling of the soil to the finished bottle is the terroir of the wine.  Many a wine snob, ooppss, I mean expert, has their own long winded explanation of what they mean by terroir. Seldom do you hear complete agreement, nor is there a reason for complete agreement. Terroir is the interpretation of the wine and wine making activities for those distinct and different grape growing regions and wine making practices. 

Bountiful is on the Windwalker driveway through their entrance gate on the south slope.

The reality of it all comes down to the terroir of the wine you are enjoying in a tasting room or at home. You can discuss some sort of terroir of the wine and you will sound like you really know something. Just say the word terroir the next time you are in a tasting room and even most tasting room people will look at you like you're weird. Just don't sound like a snob and always enjoy all the wines you drink. Remember, the best wine in the world is the one YOU LIKE.

.....'Til next Time


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