Welcome to a journey that uncorks the hidden magic within every sip of wine – the enchanting concept of terroir. Terroir isn’t just a French word; it’s an invitation to explore the intricate dance between nature and craftsmanship that results in the wines we treasure. It’s a term that encapsulates the unique fingerprint of a vineyard – the soil, climate, and soul of a place that breathe life into each grape.
We welcome you to the enchanting world we’ve created at Wiens Cellars, where the magic of terroir unfolds in every sip of our handcrafted wines. Our story is one of passion, dedication, and the harmonious interplay between soil and climate. As we embark on this journey through the impact of soil and climate on wine flavor, we invite you to join us in exploring the essence of terroir that shapes each bottle we proudly produce.
In this exploration, we’ll dive into the heart of terroir, peeling back the layers to reveal how the partnership of soil and climate shapes the very essence of wine. By the end, we hope to inspire the idea that terroir isn’t just a concept; it’s the spirit of the earth captured in liquid form, waiting to be savored.
Understanding terroir is like unraveling the intricate DNA of a wine’s character. It encapsulates the unique synergy between soil, climate, topography and human touch, that shape the flavors and aromas of each bottle. Terroir is the invisible conductor of a symphony played by nature and craftsmanship, giving wines a distinct identity and an immersive sense of place. In short, it is the essence of a specific vineyard site, a composition of elements that shape the grapes and, subsequently, the wines themselves.
In this intricate dance of soil, climate, topography, and human touch, terroir emerges – a tapestry woven with a vineyard’s history and geography. Understanding terroir is a glimpse into the soul of a wine, a journey that reveals the profound connection between the land and the glass.
From the vineyard soil to the glass, the journey of wine is a symphony composed by nature and nurtured by human craftsmanship. Amidst this orchestration, the soil beneath the vines plays a pivotal role in shaping the wine’s character. Each soil type brings unique hues and textures to the final canvas of flavors and aromas found in wine. In this exploration of the interplay between soil texture and wine, we delve into the different types of soil and their remarkable influence on the wines we savor.
Soil’s influence on wine style transcends mere physical support. It’s a flavor architect, endowing grapes with distinct attributes. Sandy soils, for instance, promote drainage, leading to lighter, elegant wines, while clay imparts depth and robustness. Minerals absorbed by roots infuse flavors, yielding wines with subtle earthiness or vibrant minerality. Let’s give you three examples:
Soil isn’t just a canvas; it’s a palette of flavors that artists, in the form of winemakers, deftly paint upon. From Bordeaux’s gravel-kissed Cabernets to Burgundy’s limestone-infused Chardonnays, each wine is a testament to soil’s profound influence, etching its legacy sip by sip. To dive deeper, we’ll explain this with three of our most popular varietals:
In the ever-evolving tale of wine, climate stands as both artist and alchemist, sculpting the very essence of flavor. As we journey deeper, we uncover the exquisite dance between cool and warm climates, each producing wines that tell their own story. Cool climate wines, like a delicate sonata, often exhibit elegance and higher acidity. On the other hand, warm climate wines boast boldness, characterized by ripe fruits and full-bodied expressions.
Imagine grapevines as weathered interpreters, translating the climate’s tale into the fruit they bear. The sun-drenched days of warm climates expedite the ripening process, infusing grapes with higher sugar content and intensity. Cool climates, however, bestow a longer, gentler journey, nurturing grapes with balanced sugars and acids, resulting in a final product that sings harmoniously.
From the frost-kissed hills of Germany’s Mosel region come Rieslings that are alive with vibrant acidity and delicate aromas – the hallmark of a cool climate. In the sun-soaked valleys of Temecula, Cabernet Sauvignons exude richness and opulence, crafted by the warm embrace of the Californian sun. Here are a few more you might be familiar with:
As you uncork these wines, the climate becomes your companion, a silent narrator that whispers its secrets through each sip. Through the prism of climate change, we grasp the intricate dialogue between nature and nurture, understanding how this intangible force molds flavors and defines the very identity of wines.
In this symphony of wine we continually mention, there exists a duet that captivates the senses: the interplay between soil and climate. As we delve deeper into this harmony, we unveil a mesmerizing collaboration that shapes the very essence of flavor. Soil, the storyteller of terroir, teams up with climate, the conductor of growth, to compose wines that echo the land’s secrets. The mineral richness of soil meets the nurturing embrace of climate, and their union is a transformative alchemy.
Microclimates are the intricate climatic variations that occur within a larger geographical area, often due to factors like topography, altitude, proximity to water bodies, and local weather patterns. In wine production, the impact of microclimates is profound, as they can create diverse and nuanced growing conditions even within a single vineyard. These microclimates act as natural filters, determining which grape varieties will thrive and how they will express themselves.
Spanish wine regions, for example, showcase diverse microclimates, such as the Mediterranean coastal influence in Penedès for sparkling wines, the Atlantic impact in Rías Baixas enhancing Albariño’s character, and the continental conditions of Ribera del Duero nurturing intense Tempranillo-based reds. Many factors contribute to these varied outcomes. For instance, a south-facing slope might receive more sunlight and warmth, resulting in riper grapes and fuller-bodied wines, while a cooler north-facing slope might produce wine grapes with higher acidity and more delicate flavors.
Winemakers keenly study and harness these microclimates to tailor their viticultural practices. By strategically planting grape varieties and managing vines based on these subtle variations, winemakers can enhance grape quality and flavor consistency. Microclimates also play a vital role in terroir expression, as they add yet another layer of uniqueness to a wine’s character. Consequently, wines originating from a specific vineyard might exhibit remarkable diversity in flavors, textures, and aromas, all thanks to the intricate interplay of microclimates within the broader regional climate.
Nestled amid the scenic beauty of Temecula Valley, our winery Wiens Cellars, emerges as a beacon of the terroir that defines our high-quality wines. The rolling hills and sun-drenched vineyards create a landscape that tells a tale of soil and climate, each element nurturing the grapes that paint our viticultural masterpieces. The soil, a patchwork of sandy loam and gravelly textures, whispers the history of the land’s ancient geology, while the warm Mediterranean climate infuses vitality into every grape that flourishes.
Porous and well-draining, our region’s type of soil grants the vines a unique stress that yields concentrated flavors. Meanwhile, the region’s warm days and cool nights coax the grapes into a slow, balanced ripening process, crafting wines with depth and character. The interplay between soil and climate in this instance is Wiens’ palette, and each varietal is a brushstroke of this remarkable collaboration. Wiens Cellars stands as a testament to the power of terroir – a reminder that beyond the winery’s walls, the land itself is a vital partner in the winemaking process.
As we raise a final glass to our exploration, the significance of terroir in the world of winemaking shines brilliantly. From the embrace of soil to the caress of climate, we’ve journeyed through the very elements that orchestrate the symphony of flavors within each bottle. Soil imparts identity, while climate conducts growth – together, they weave the narrative that distinguishes wines from various corners of the globe.
So, as you indulge in your next glass, take a moment to savor not just the wine, but the tale of terroir it encapsulates. Allow your senses to wander through the vineyards, to feel the soil beneath your feet and the sun’s warmth on your skin. Explore the nuances that terroir offers, whether it’s the mineral embrace of limestone or the crisp air of a cool climate. Let each sip be a journey, an ode to the partnership between nature and craftsmanship!
There are a number of factors used to price a wine, but the main ones in order of importance are overall quality, availability, and production cost. If you’re wondering why the wine’s age wasn’t mentioned as a pricing factor, that’s because a wine’s age only contributes very slightly to price, and that small contribution is mostly related to scarcity, not age itself. You can’t age a mediocre wine into goodness – it just does not happen that way.
In general, high quality and therefore high priced wine is recognized very early in the winemaking and aging process. We usually can tell even before grapes are harvested from a particular vineyard whether the wine made from that fruit will be great or not. What indicates quality? Small berries, deep color, a well-managed low-vigor vine canopy, absence of disease, and taste/tannins of the pre-harvest fruit all pretty much tell us what we’re going to get in the finished wine.
Do we get surprised sometimes? Yes, but for the most part we know early how good the vintage will be. Most certainly after about three months into a new wine’s life, it’s already shown its potential. How can we justify charging a very high price for a wine only two or three years old? Because its quality is set and we can predict from experience how it will age. Unless we for some unusual reason think it will fall apart with age, we’re generally confident that a great young big red will be a great mature one.
As a wine begins its journey through the sales life cycle, when first released there is usually abundance, so quality (as our tasting panel sees it from pre-release discussion) determines price. Sometimes, our internal winery judgement of quality differs slightly from our customer base, so we adjust the price down if our sales numbers are cold. With very fast sales compared to other wines on our list, the price may be increased. These variations in demand drive the price to line up with wine quality in the eyes of our customers – you ultimately as a group determine or at least strongly influence price.
Later in the cycle when supply gets low, price tends to increase – classic supply/demand price impact. This same influence comes into play if a winery has a “cult” wine that boasts status everybody wants. In this case, the higher price is driven by high demand instead of low supply. Sometimes a winery can charge several times the initial release price of a wine when it reaches “last-drop” status.
The emotional demand for an individual bottle can become astronomical if you can’t get it! Same effect as scarcity, just on the opposite side of the equation. On the other hand, if every winery up and down the street has the same wine variety with similar quality, prices are depressed due to high supply and competition. Don’t you just love capitalism?
The third most important driver of wine price, production cost, has some effect but less than you might think. For our direct-to-consumer winery model (wine sold mostly through tasting room & wine clubs, the Temecula standard) it costs us much more to create and run the retail environment than the cost of producing the wine. Among the production inputs to make a bottle, fruit cost is the highest contributor. We spend a huge amount every year to ensure we grow the best fruit, which makes the best wine, which allows us to charge a premium price. Still, if you think about it, even this factor goes back as a contributor to quality, the overwhelmingly main factor in price.
So, bottom line – don’t become obsessed with a wine’s age to decide what you want to pay for it. Seek out quality. Taste it! If you like it, trust your senses and trust that if it’s a good young big red it will age gracefully. Drink the lighter ones earlier, the bigger ones later. Great wines start great and finish the same way!
Doug Wiens, Director of Winemaking
Yes! Here at Wiens our winemaking team uses many different winemaking techniques and practices. One thing we are well known for is our blends. We blend throughout all stages of the winemaking process–whether it is in the vineyard while picking “a field blend,” combining two press loads after fermentation, or using two or more wines that were aged separately in French and American oak prior to bottling.
Something that we have done from time to time over the years is a practice known as a co-fermentation. A co-fermentation is when two or more grape varietals are crushed together into the same fermentation vessel and fermented together. This is commonly done in the north of Rhone and known as a “Cote-Rhotie” where they use Viognier and Syrah grapes. When blended together, the white grapes can enhance aromatics and soften tannins.
Sometimes we like to ferment Pinot Noir and Petite Sirah together. By fermenting our Pinot Noir with Petite Sirah, we can build stronger color chains and increase the color stability of the delicate Pinot Noir. The advantage to this is that you will get stronger, darker color and gain tannins, which will extend how the wine will age. Blending this early on makes it so that the flavors of the different grapes can develop and create a more complex wine and become one.
If this all sounds good and makes for better wine, why doesn’t everyone do it? This is becuase there are some disadvantages to blending this early, such as locking yourself into a certain blend at the start of fermentation that may limit your possibilities for blending after fermentation. There are also certain restrictions on what and how much you can use depending on how a wine is labeled. If you want to label a wine by the grape varietal you used, then it would have to contain at least 75% of that varietal. Another thing to consider is where the grapes come from–are they from different appellations (Temecula or Lodi)? The predominate appellation (85%) will determine where the grapes are from on the label of the bottle. If you making a blend based on a certain style like a Bordeaux (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Fanc, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot) or a Rhone style GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) this will also determine what you can blend together.
Something some people consider as a simple question: “will these grapes actually work together?” is easier said than done, right? Blending is definitely a Reflection (pun intended) of the artistic side that a winemaker masters over years through trials and errors. Salud!
Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker
First things first, I am not a doctor and cannot be quoted for medical advice. This is just one man’s take on how these popular conceptions relate to wine.
Throughout my years in the wine industry I have heard many different people making statements about how they cannot drink a certain wine because they have some sort of allergy. These have run the gamut from nut allergies, to various types of fruit allergies, and the “I don’t drink sweet wine because I have a sulfite allergy,” to various diet restrictions and myths. So, here are a few myths I would like to shed some light on.
Grapes are the only fruit we use to make wine. The descriptions you see on a wine label or on tasting notes are subjective descriptions of flavors and aromas. There are never any pineapples, coffee, or toasted nuts added to the wine. A winemaker will use these descriptors as a guide for you, the taster, to get a glimpse of what a particular wine is like. The flavors and aromas in the wine come from the grape variety itself, oak ageing, and winemaking practices such as fermenting at different temperatures to produce thiols or esters.
For those looking for a low carbohydrate wine and/or “Keto” wine: Most wines are relatively low-carb compared to other alcoholic beverages. Wine is typically fermented to relative dryness, so almost all the sugars have been converted to alcohol. If a wine is sweeter and has any residual sugar, then there will likely be more carbohydrates in the wine. *A note from Johnny Science: Take the residual sugar level in grams per liter (g/L) x 0.15 = grams of carbs per 150 ml serving.
“I only drink dry wines.” This is one of my favorites. Occasionally I will over hear someone talk about how he or she only drinks dry wine, and then rave on about a wine that has noticeable amount of RS (residual sugar). Wine is never 100% dry. Even a bold dry red wine can have 0.2% RS. A little bit of RS can balance an acidic wine or smooth out a tannic wine and make it more drinkable. RS in wine is not detectible under 0.8% to most people. Being masters of the dark arts, winemakers may use a touch of RS to balance a wine while the sweetness goes undetected. So thank you, Professor Snape.
And finally on to sulfite allergies. I often hear, “sulfites give me headaches, is this wine sulfite free?” Sulfites are a naturally occurring characteristic in fermented beverages, including wine, so no wine is completely sulfite free. By law, wines. with over 10ppm (parts per million) must state “contains sulfites” on the label, so even wines with no added sulfites may be labeled “contains sulfite.” Winemakers use sulfites because they slow chemical reactions that cause wine to go bad.
A wine that has a high pH and low acid will require more sulfite than a wine with a low pH and higher acid. White wines are typically in the range of 10-40ppm, and red wines are in a range of 40-75ppm. Typically, the younger a wine is the more likely it is to have a higher sulfite level. As wine ages the sulfite will dissipate. There are other products in our day to day life that contain sulfites at much higher levels. Orange juice may contain close to 300+ppm, and dried fruits can have upwards of 1700ppm. While a small percentage of the population has sulfite allergies or sensitivities, this may not be the
culprit behind your red wine headache. Histamines may actually be the cause. Foods that have been fermented or aged may have higher levels of histamines such as tofu, tempeh, champagne, red wine, ketchup, and aged meats. Histamines can cause inflammatory flushing and wakefulness at night. A good thing to remember is that you are drinking alcohol, and this can lead to dehydration and headaches, so drink plenty of water when imbibing. And if you do happen to have sulfite sensitivity, it might be worth trying a beautifully aged wine as opposed to a young one.
I hope this debunks a few things for my fellow wine enthusiasts and opens you up to trying a few new wines.
Brian Marquez, Assistant Winemaker