about terroir

‘To the extent that terroirs remain unique, and poorly understood, one can therefore hope that they will continue to help mould the infinite variety and individuality of the best wines, giving the special nuances of character that make wine such a fascinating study for winemaker and consumer alike. Vivent les différences!’                                                                                                                                                                                                             – Jancis Robinson. The Oxford Companion to Wine

There are so many wines out there. There are bulk wines and estate bottled. Some only reach cement deposits, others mature in brand-new Allier barrels. Most are approachable, meant for easy-drinking, and to be enjoyed with food. A few could use a roadmap.

The wines I seek at Harris Wine Merchant speak to their provenance, their finca, their terroir. They teach terroir in wine school as a French phenomenon that is the intersection of climate, soil and vine. A slightly nebulous concept really.  When I first started studying wine seriously in 2010, I remember the first wine I drank that spoke to its terroir.

We were at a little hole-in-the-wall underground cellar in Cabana de Sayago outside of Zamora, Spain. There was an inch of snow on the ground outside and we were trying to warm the wine through our mittens. It was a 2006 Dominio de Sexmil from winemaker Esteban Sanchez. He only makes 4,000 bottles. It was a super-concentrated, full-bodied dark fruit powerhouse with cigar box, savory, leather, alcohol and delicate acidity with serious, sweet tannins. It was supremely elegant with a long finish that warmed us up quickly.

The Dominio vines were planted over 60 years ago ‘en vaso’ in the appellation Tierra de Vino de Zamora. Esteban managed to get 14 hectoliters making this area one with some of the lowest-yielding vines in the world. That wine could not have been copied, faked or reproduced anywhere else.

Authenticity is hard to find in this day and age. That’s why Harris Wine supports wines made in small batches from indigenous vines grown by local farmers. Organic practices and sustainable agriculture are mentioned wherever appropriate.

Our principle focus is Spanish wine and in Valladolid, Spain we are surrounded by great Spanish wines. I also have to support my home state Oregon pinot noir. Alsatian Gewurztraminer or a nice fino will likely be featured here, too.

Harriswine.com wine store will launch in the coming weeks.

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