Ah, wine. I thought I knew a bit about wine before I moved to France fourteen years ago. Little did I suspect how much more I had to learn. I’d participated in a dozen wine-tasting events in the US. I knew about grape varieties and ordered Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs and Merlots. But that was not how my new French neighbors spoke of wine. No, sir. They spoke not of the cépage (grape varietals), but of the terroir (the region where the wine is produced).
They ordered Burgundies and Bordeaux and Côtes du Rhônes, using the names of the major wine-producing regions.
And to speak of the region, or terroir, was to summon all they knew of the “flavor” of the land: the qualities of the soil; the usual amount of rain; the average number of sunny days and thunderstorms; the range of temperatures and typical humidity during the growing season; the knowledge and care and skill and years of experience of the region’s main wine producers; the timing of the harvest and whether the grapes were harvested in bunches all at once or were selected grape berry by grape berry, one by one, later in the season; even the wind–and how all these factors influenced the flavor and quality of the wines. I have learned so much, and this new-found knowledge increased my appreciation of wine immensely.
Today’s post is not meant to be a wine lesson, though. I capture here, below, my first 17-syllable impression of the passion for wine I found among most of my French acquaintances and friends … my “ah-ha” moment when I first appreciated all that had gone into the making of a very fine wine.
When I savor wine now, I often think of one of my fourteen summers in France–where we ventured and what we discovered–and the bottles we brought back from every region, now lining the walls of the cellar, or la cave. Only our photos top these dusty-musty bottles as our favorite souvenirs.
I would love to see your 17-syllable impressions of good wine! Will you accept the challenge?