Monday, 10 February 2020

New wines explore the concept of terroir

The French call it terroir. The indigenous people of Australia know it as pangkarra.

Literally translated, terroir is a French term that means: earth, or soil.

In a larger context, terroir is the specificity of place, which includes not only soil but also the climate, the weather, the aspect of the vineyards, altitude and anything else that differentiates one piece of land from another.

Terroir is the basis of the French AOC system, which says that  the land in which grapes are grown gives a unique quality that is specific to that site. 

Pangkarra is an Aboriginal word used by the Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains. It is a word that, represents a concept that has no English translation but encompasses the characteristics of a specific place – the climate, sunshine, rain, geology and the soil-water relations. 

Pangkarra generally means sustainably passing the land from generation to generation.
Tasmanian organic and biodynamic winemaker Stefano Lubiana explores the concepts in his second release of single block pinot noirs from the same vineyard; the 2017 Ruscello, Il Giardino and La Roccia. 

All three wines are made the same way; with only a small amount made each year, between one to five barrels of each, depending on vintage. Crop levels are kept low and and wine making is relatively consistent between the blocks. 

All are fermented in natural yeast in small open fermenters with three weeks of maceration. While whole-bunch compenents may vary, all blocks are matured in French oak barriques (20% new) for 12 months. 

My favourite of the three is the Ruscello, which translates to "small mountain stream" - a small winter creek that flows through the middle of the property. 

The gravel here is full of silica crystals that warm up quickly and release heat to the vines overnight. Well drained and 24 years old, it produces generous, elegant fruit "everything that is exquisite, attractive and lovely" about pinot noir.  The wines is aromatic, soft and concentrated; for me the most Burgundian. 

Il Giardino means "the garden" in Italian, a 30-year-old block where vegetables were once grown. The soil is part Rusecllo and part La Roccia, but heavier with some limestone influence producing a wine with richness and minerality. 

La Roccia is mostly deep red clay, but with a limestone bedrock. The block is always first to be harvested and produces bigger, tannic and structured wines that take time to full mature. There is a big rock in the middle of the block from which its derives its name. 

You can take your own journey into terroir by buying a three-pack of the fascinating trio for $250. See www.slw.com.au/product    

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