Where Does Wine Come From?
It may seem impossible to believe but just one single species of vine is responsible for virtually all of the wines that we consume. The common grapevine or Vitis Vinifera has been cultivated over thousands of years and is now responsible for around 10,000 different grape varieties. These cover over 8 million hectares of land roughly the same amount of land as the whole of Ireland. Although there are thousands of varieties many are indigenous to specific countries or regions, with only a handful being commercially popular around the world. Every variety has its own nature or character, but the place where it is nurtured also plays a role in its personality. For example, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia may differ in style but both still have trademark Cabernet characteristics. The word terroir coined in France refers to a vine specific growing environment. This term embodies where a vine is grown from the climate to the soil But other aspects that affect the style and quality of a wine can also come under the definition of terroir. The impact of climate and soil in Champagne was explained to Diego by Charles Heidsieck Chef de Cave Cyril Brun In champagne the soil and subsoil is made of chalk, during the winter, we have a lot of rainfall and during that time the chalk starts to store and to stock the water So that makes the difference Yes in terms of taste and some of flavour? Yes and whether it’s Pinot Noir, Chardonnay or Meunier, the chalkiness is going to be captured into the juice of all the varietals. In traditional wine producing countries such as France appellation laws dictate many aspects of production including which varieties can be grown. However, a newer wine growing countries such as Australia and New Zealand wine producers are less restricted. Following winter pruning, the vine starts his annual growth cycle with bud burst in the spring. This can be a risky time as frost can destroy the new buds and ruin an entire crop. If the vines successfully negotiate this first hurdle, the buds grow shoots covered with leaves and clusters of flowers which become tiny bunches of grapes. During the summer and into autumn these bunches grow and ripen before finally being harvested and the grapes sent off for winemaking resetting the growing cycle. Some vines have been through this process hundreds of times. The oldest vines still in production is thought to be located in Maribor, Slovenia, and is over 400 years old. Vines that produced quality grapes only have one chance a year to get it right. Nonetheless, growers work on their vines all year round to ensure that their grapes will produce good quality wine. An entire year’s work can be ruined in a single day by extreme weather; this could be hail, frost or heavy rainfall. Grapes need warmth and sunlight as well as just enough water. Too much rain and the grapes will rot, too little and the vines will give up on the grapes leaving them to shrivel. One of the key decisions for every winemaker is when to harvest the grapes. People think it’s an institution. We all voted to decide. It’s in the newspaper, signed by the mayor or the minister and people go and pick, rush… Green lights, Formula One and race. Yes, it was like that in the past because growers did not know the sugar levels. So negociant was saying, ok, we will accept this sugar level, but now, technology has evolved, farmers make studies, So we know if the grapes are mature or not. but my pickers, they are not Cleanex. I will not say come, go back… You have to say Ok. My optimum of the harvest will be there. This vineyard I will pick this day, this one this day. Over in Burgundy, Cheba discovered that in this limestone rich region, each terroir gives its own unique characteristics to the taste of the grapes. Take for example, a popular variety like Chardonnay. Chardonnay from Burgundy is certainly the most important white grape variety around the world, but in Chablis, Chardonnay gives a specific taste because we have a soil called Kimmeridgian soil from the Jurassic period, and this soil gives the unique expression of Chardonnay with the freshness, minerality, and the elegance. Lots of limestone in the soil. Yeah is the oyster shell, with clay. In Bordeaux, the soil types can affect the taste of the wine yet again. The right bank has a mainly clay rich soil and on the left bank gravel based one. Stephanie visited Chateau Smith Haute Lafitte in Graves on Bordeaux left bank to discover how the soil there influences their wines. Can we talk a little bit more about the actual terroir and the soil type that you have here in Graves specifically. The terroir in the Graves region is specific it’s this gravel. All appellations in the Bordeaux region have got the specifics on their terroir. How does heat, sun, affect the taste in a wine? It can concentrate the flavors. It can concentrate the tannins it can stress the vines but in a way the stress is Good stress Good stress. Yeah. As you experiment with more wines, you’ll discover which varieties and blends are your favourite, and which specific terroirs add the dimension to the wines that you love.