Monday, April 11, 2016
The HoseMaster of Wine™ Dreams of Terroir
Terroir came to me in a dream. Like most of you here, before I had my epiphany I never believed in Terroir. I was of the opinion that only the ignorant believed in It, only the desperate and the delusional—wine writers and marketing people, for example. And delusional is putting it mildly. These people dream dollar signs, and those dreams are wet. What’s the old saying? “If Terroir did not exist, it would be necessary to invent It.” Which, if you’d asked me then, I would have told you was just a lot of hot air; or as the French call it, voltaire. The French have stupid words for everything, like pommes frites. They can’t even name their own potatoes right.
Terroir is just another one of those stupid French words. That’s what I believed at the time. Wherever I traveled, wherever I tasted the finest wines, I ran into folks who blindly and faithfully believed in Terroir. They would smell and taste a wine and declare that it was filled with Terroir, as though wine were a Twinkie and Terroir its luscious creamy filling. Far too often, they would try fervently to convince you of the existence of Terroir. They would ask if you could sense Terroir in a wine. They would insist that, if you knew where to look, if you just opened your heart to the wonder of wine, wherever you traveled in the wine world you would sense the loving embrace of Terroir. “Accept Terroir,” they would say, “and Terroir will be the Answer to all of your wine questions.” Many wore shirts that read:
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, which is a subappellation of Napa, I shall fear no evil, for Terroir art with me; your rod and your tasting room staff, they comfort me.”
This they believed. Before my conversion, I often asked the true Terroir believers to define Terroir. For every forty believers I asked, I received forty different definitions. These are truly stupid people. Every one of them thought that they knew the true definition of Terroir, though no such definition exists. Terroir is unknowable, like minerality or how “Wine Folly” has any readers at all. Terroir encompasses everything that makes up the finished wine, from the soil and climate to the winemaker and the winery, and, one supposes, to the spinning cones and micro-oxygenation. Oh, yes, Terroir keeps up with all the latest technology. It can be said that without Terroir, there is no need for that new winemaking technology. Or, perhaps, that Terroir transcends technology. Though I always believed that technology, man’s hand, created Terroir. We create wine, and therefore we create Terroir. Does Terroir exist without man? No. It cannot. Terroir is the 100 Point Scale of yesteryear. We moved on. We don’t need Terroir anymore, we assign points. One fantasy always replaces another.
You see, discussing Terroir is like practicing biodynamics—both demand endless bullshit.
I was the Richard Dawkins of Terroir. I believed that other people believe Terroir exists, but I knew that it did not. When Terroir encompasses everything, how can you smell it? How do you know you smell Terroir and not the finger you just pulled from your ass? There are dozens of compounds to smell in wine, yet a human can only smell four at a time—how do you know those four are the wine’s Terroir? It’s like licking a dirty plate in the French Laundry and declaring it the finest gourmet meal of your lifetime. (Which I highly recommend, by the way, if simply for how much money you save for essentially the same experience.) Claiming to understand a wine’s Terroir based on your indisputably pathetic sense of smell is simple hubris. A way to claim superior knowledge and skills. A way to pass “Go” and Collect $200. A cocky “Checkmate.” A macho “Yeah, I did her.” No one believes you, and everyone hates you.
Yes, friends, I was a skeptic. I found pleasure in denying the existence of Terroir. To be truthful, I felt superior because I knew that Terroir was a manmade conceit and, therefore, by its own definition, not real. I looked down upon those who believed in Terroir, who believed Terroir had meaning, that Terroir existed. Terroir, I believed, was a sad illusion, the refuge of wine hucksters and wine writers with no discernible knowledge or talent. Saying a wine expressed its Terroir was like saying your Doberman had just silently expressed his poor diet via his GI tract. You call it Terroir, I call it He Who Smelt it Dealt it.
But I was wrong. Yes, fellow converts, I admit it. I was wrong. Terroir doesn’t have to be definable to exist. Terroir, I know now, is about Faith. And as we get older, we long for Faith. The young want certainty, they yearn for control. With age, we find a place where we can let the illusions of certainty and control vanish. The young cannot understand Terroir. For them, it is a word they can use as a crutch. But, for the most part, they cannot sense Terroir. Terroir does not live in their heart. They need more time, they need to walk the wine road a while longer. Terroir is not a quality, my friends, Terroir is destiny. Why am I talking like fucking Alfonso Cevola?
Terroir finally came to me in a dream. In my dream, I was wandering around a beautiful vineyard near harvest. I was naked and had an enormous penis, so I knew I was dreaming. Or I was a Percheron, I don’t remember. The vineyard was talking to me. “Get the fuck out of here,” it said. That was the Syrah, with its shitty attitude. I think it was drunk. It was also singing, “The Cornas is high/as an elephant’s eye…” Syrah loves the theater, and especially musicals, I remembered in my dream, and I felt it was suspiciously eyeing my gigantic junk.
And then I felt a powerful energy surround me in my dream. I felt embraced by something much larger than me, like I’d been swallowed by Robert Parker. I realized I was no longer naked sporting a gigantic magic dong, though for some reason it had been replaced by Georg Riedel. I was slowly sinking into the soil, becoming part of the vineyard. I felt the caress of the Syrah’s roots. Actually, they were more like groping my engorged Riedel stem. I sensed the life-giving moisture in the soil coursing through my body, upward into the grapevines, reaching toward the Heavens. I became one with the vineyard. And a voice, a disembodied voice, like Stephen Hawking ejaculating into Siri’s throat, said, “I am Terroir. And you are Terroir. I live in You.”
Terroir had come to me. As a wine professional, I had never known such certainty and such peace. I knew Terroir. And now, friends, whenever I inhale the fragrance of a new bottle of wine, Terroir fills my lungs, and my heart. I am home. I am a man of Faith. Terroir is my Faith. When I smell Terroir, I am joyous to be home, naked, in a vineyard, gently touching my throbbing Georg.