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Tuesday Trials and Tribulations
Globalization and Life After The Death of Terroir

By Stephen Eliot

Say the word “globalization” to most any dyed-in-the-wool wine geek and you will more likely than not get a lecture about the horrors of homogenization, the impending tyranny of a half-dozen cultivars and the imminent death of terroir. The truth of the matter, however, is that fine wine has assumed a global presence over the last decade or so that was unimagined a mere generation back, and it is no longer the province of the elect few. Wine is becoming a part of daily life in the modern world more than at any time in the past, and, while some see danger in wine’s democratization and bemoan the passing of an idealized “golden age”, there is, short of some Malthusian imperative that will suddenly and significantly diminish the world’s population, no reason to think that the new vinous tide will ebb any time soon.

Those of us in the business have accepted this utter explosion in quantity and choice as a simple fact of life, but the answers to questions of just where in the world and to what extent various wine-grape varieties are grown have been more anecdotal than based on hard fact... at least until now.

A recently published paper1 from the Wine Economics Research Centre at the University of Adelaide in Australia aims to fill the gap and provide comprehensive global data about where what is grown and charts the noteworthy changes in the world’s varietal mix between 2000 and 2010. It is worth checking out.

I must admit I have always had a fascination with numbers. I am aware that numbers and the science of statisticians can be as obfuscating as they are illuminating, but they can tell the truth when the right questions are asked, and, as I suspect will be the case with this new study from Australia, they can in themselves incite query and ideas that were hitherto unconsidered.

I am not all that surprised from a cursory glance at the report to find that despite the predictions of a good many observers, Syrah is quite healthy and Merlot far from dead on the global stage or that Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay head the class. I am little dismayed to see that my concerns about the shrinking supply of Chenin Blanc are founded in fact, and was astonished to see that Tempranillo outdistanced any other grape in terms of growth, while Grenache, regardless of garnering so much acclaim from those who sell and write about wine, is among those varieties whose plantings have proportionally contracted the most over the last decade.

Now, there is no question that the study speaks less to the comparatively tiny universe of artisan wines than it does to wine production of a commercial and far larger scale, but if nothing more than food for thought for those of us who mostly live in the former, it is a sober reminder that the wine world is a far bigger place with a vastly larger popular base than is sometimes appreciated by “those in the know”.



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Artisan wines
by Richard Bowling
Posted on:1/15/2014 12:07:24 PM

Hello irrespective of the data that assumes more wine and varieties to the global stage from Adelaide, the truth remains that there is considerable difficulty for true expression of terroir in most of the New World production areas, this is driven by access to market and inabilty to do the big spend in promotion for those producers.

Living in the real world of winegrowing, papers such as these offer little value or insight as they gloss over reality...was it not also from Australia we recently heard of a global wine shortage...what rubbish.

Very few wines on supermarket shelves reflect the terroir of the region they were grown as a true producer of those wines would never allow supermarkets to sell their products as that is the surest path to destroy your brand.


No Terroir In The New World?
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:1/15/2014 2:12:13 PM

Mr. Bowling--

Perhaps I misunderstand the tenor of your comments. I certainly hope I do, and I apologize if I have or if I am putting words in your mouth.

Do you really mean that Shiraz from Barossa is not different from Shiraz from MacLaren Vale, indeed, or even within parts of the Barossa.

Do you really mean that Zinfandel in the Dry Creek Valley is not different from Zin from the Napa Valley or the Sierra Foothills?

In short, I hope that I have misconstrued the point that the only true terroir exists in Europe.

by Richard Bowling
Posted on:1/16/2014 11:58:18 AM

hello, the question of terroir, in the truest sense of terroir being the development and management of microclimate and site aspect, creating unique wines of particularly high quality yes then Europe is more advanced, time and experience has gained them that. Barossa and McClaren Vale are regions not terroir. Remember this is a French word and encompasses other than just location and for more than just wine. Richard

Terroir in the New World
by chris robinson
Posted on:1/17/2014 4:17:56 AM

I think Mr. Bowling you need to update your reading. A recent Decanter magazine article had a thorough analysis of Shiraz and taste impacts from variable soil profiles throughout the Barossa and Clare Valley. Yeap they fpund clear terroir impacts.  The New World is experimenting with clonal slection at a rapid pace, which usually means plantings in select areas, vinification by clone and blending of wines by clonal character after vinification.  The terroir story applies everywhere, but the New World does not feel it is any more important than the skill of the viticulturalist and winemaker.  A belief many Burgundy wine makers also hold, quite correctly I would suggest based on their skill at turning around lesser performing vineyards.

by Richard Bowling
Posted on:1/17/2014 5:31:32 PM

At no point have a suggested the concept of Terroir or its existence is unknown to the New World, My reference to Barossa etc was in the Macro sense.

My own vineyard and the single vineyard wine I produce is absolutely about terroir. I do not though entirely agree it is in the viticulture and winemaking that acheives the point of difference.

I am too aware of the sense of place...Terroir.

Going back to my original comment, I would not at any time allow the product on a supermarket shelf as with the practise of supermarkets discounting would damage the brand.

My experience of Globalism differs to that of the article.

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