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.
“Boutique wine growing is a labour of
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How I relish a glass of wine at the end of a busy day.
If you’re anything like me, it begins as a sweet, shapeless sense of anticipation at the margins of the mind. By the time I … Read more >
One of the questions I’m asked most in my travels is ‘what’s new in wine?’
For many years I would rattle off improvements in active dry yeasts, or bottle closures, and watch as eyes glazed over. Sure there … Read more >
It’s been a while since I posted: A delicious, lingering stretch free from long-haul travel and it’s accompanying physical and mental fatigue. A blissful down-gearing dedicated to family and friends, domestic chores and beach swims at dusk. Ah, … Read more >
Recently I was privileged to be part of the team that selected the Fine Wines of New Zealand – a new initiative, sponsored by Air NZ, to bring recognition to New Zealand’s most prestigious wines. It was both … Read more >
Outside of Spain there seems to be two main camps when it comes to sherry: those who have been scarred by an early life experience of overly sweet alcohol from Grandma’s tumbler, and those who have never heard … Read more >
You might have seen or read about The Marshmallow Test – where 3 and 4 year olds are given the choice of eating one marshmallow immediately or waiting for 15 minutes for 2 marshmallows (apparently it’s supposed to … Read more >
In 2007 I got bitten by the saké bug and ended up a samurai. To put samurai into context: I’m not referring to the noble warriors of medieval Japan, rather an esteemed title given by the Japan Saké … Read more >
A few weeks ago I was privileged to be asked to speak on wine and art at a soirée hosted by one of the most dynamic patrons of the New Zealand art world. It was a fascinating topic … Read more >
Many people are afraid to give me their opinion about a wine. Uncertainty, insecurity, fear – I know these feelings well. They are my constant companions when I travel around the world; they are there every day when … Read more >