Perhaps it was reading Joseph Campbell’s ‘Myths to Live By’ during my first overseas vintage in California, 22 years ago, that inspired me to keep one eye on the anthropology of the wine regions I visited for the rest of my career.
Over the subsequent years I have traveled to most major wine growing nations around the world – from Europe to The Americas, Africa, Asia and, of course, Australasia – and have drawn correlations (imagined or real) between national culture and the dominant wine style. Think Australian reds with their big, intense personalities, their rich and sometimes hard backbones and their smooth and often cheeky qualities. Such cultural observations in the glass are heightened when localised to small wine producing communities, especially those making single vineyard wines.
“In wine, a respectful human input is integral to both achieving a sense of place and appreciating it.“
A key concept in this anthropological equation is the French word ‘terroir’. In wine, it is used to describe a broad range of physical elements of a vineyard – the soil, the climate, the aspect and anything else that can differentiate one vineyard from another. An associated and perhaps more useful term when making the sensory link between the vineyard and the wine in the glass is ‘a sense of place’, or the Maori word turangawaewae which can be translated as ‘the places where we feel especially empowered and connected’. These two terms acknowledge the human aspect and experience alongside that of tangible factors like soil and climate. In wine, a respectful human input is integral to both achieving a sense of place and appreciating it.
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“Boutique wine growing is a labour of