pet peeves

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Everyone has them. The thing that grates, annoys, rankles, sticks in your craw, is a burr under your saddle. Mine is terrior. There’s no such thing as terrior! There are terriers – smart little dogs. And there is terroir – sometimes – an inconveniently French term that is supposed to represent “the murmuring of the earth” or some such notion.

But if you start reading back labels and websites and press releases, you’ll find that in the wine world, it’s terrior that rules. As in this tech sheet for a perfectly fine, inexpensive California pinot noir. I quote:

“This wine was crafted from two different vineyard blocks of Monterey pinot noir and Clarksburg pinot noir. These appellations bring different nuances to the table. The 2008 Clarksburg pinot noir is very fruit forward which is balanced by the terrior driven 2008 Monterey pinot noir.”

Believe me, this is not unusual (what is unusual is how very pleasing the wine is, a rarity in a $12 pinot). I could cite such claims for terrior forever. The truth of the matter is, whenever a winery claims to have it, they don’t. If they don’t know how to spell it, they don’t know what it actually is. It’s just a frou-frou marketing term that sounds good. I can imagine the conversation that must go on: “That terrior stuff? Damned if I know what in hell it is, but that fancy new winery that went in right down the road says they have it, so we better have it too. In fact, let’s put it right there on our label!”

It's as simple as that. Or as the French might say... Viola! Terrior!!

16 comments:

Angela Robar said...

My pet peeve is frou-frou back labels that don't tell me anything about the wine. What a missed opportunity to tell the story of the wine and give the reader some insight as to what they might experience, enjoy or pair with when they purchase/open/consume this bottle. I'm all for discovery, but a little bit of guidance can do a lot to help the end consumer enjoy their bottle.

Arthur said...

What are the chances, that they caught the typo after the labels were made up and ready to go on the bottles?
Kinda hard to re-order re-prints. After all, people might not catch it. Like they don't catch "verasion".

PaulG said...

Arthur, sometimes it's a back label, and was not caught prior to printing. But most often (including here) it's a website, an e-mail, and/or a tech sheet – easy to fix. I stand by my peeve! If you can't spell it, you don't know what it is!

Arthur said...

Oh, I share your peeve, Paul. I guess I misread your post that the incorrect spelling was on a back label. I agree that the tech sheets and (more so) the website errors are a much easier fix.

Rick TYler said...

The winter was (tough/too warm/too cold/frost free) and spring was (cool/rainy/dry/full of locusts) leading to a bud set that was (unusually early/unusually late). Even though summer turned out to be (hot/cold/rainy/foggy/full of meteorite showers) and the harvest was (late/early/right on time/completed during a volcanic eruption) the grapes were still perfect, yielding our best-ever vintage! And we have terrior!

plymale said...

Seems like if one could spell "noir", then one could spell "terroir"...

Anonymous said...

Was that ride at Disneyland? "Tower Of Terroir"

Stephanie LaMonica said...

funny. here's a good one, too, Paul, more terrior:

according to the WA Wine Commission website, both Harbinger and Hedges have terrior! cadence, too.

sacre blue!

PaulG said...

Wow, Stephanie, does Christophe Hedges know about his terrior?!?!

Andy, good point. Blanc de Nior just doesn't sound quite right, does it?

Rick, you should consider a career in PR.

1WineDude said...

HA!! During my recent jaunt in Napa / Sonoma, I heard that word tossed around like confetti at an Italian wedding, and at some points I was thinking "these vines are 6 yrs old and we're talking about terroir? WTF?"

It's GREAT that wineries want to get the best wine out of their sites, etc. But I suppose figuring that out isn't something that happens in a year or two...

Rick TYler said...

[Terroir in a six-year-old winery]

I had the privilege of visiting Smith-Madrone Vineyards in the mountains west of St. Helena in Napa Valley last week. Having planted their first vines in the early 70s, and making just a few types of wine from grapes from their soil for 35 years or so, Stu and Charles Smith are as entitled to as much terroir as anyone. In a one-hour visit with winemaker Charles (which stretched out to two friendly, fascinating hours) he didn't use the term once. He did say that he and his brother just wanted to make good wine. Mission accomplished, and without terrior, too. (I'm very loyal to Washington wines, but Smith-Madrone makes good stuff, and not too expensive either.) (My first wine PR piece!)

PaulG said...

I haven't seen Stu in many years, but always enjoyed his wines and his point of view.

Anonymous said...

Stu is great..but don't get him started on biodynamics or you'll need more that two hours....

Gail Puryear said...

terrior = Brett. Simple.

There is a tube from the roots of the grape to the leaf. There is a tube from the leaf to the fruit. They are not connected to each other in the leaf.

The French learned this in Bordeaux when they built new sanitary cellars. What? No terrior! Send the microbiologists to the old cellars to find some.

Be sure to sterile bottle.

Anonymous said...

Gail, check your spelling. ha!!

Catie said...

I have a little terrior and she can be a terror, but we are happy living in our very own terroir.

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