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Chemical Proof That Terroir Exists: Pinot Noir reflects its origins in latest study

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If you can distinguish between a Volnay and a Pommard or spot a Meursault from a Puligny-Montrachet in a BLIND tasting, well done. Burgundy is home to wines with a sense of place – known as terroir in wine circles – and the best tasters can discriminate between one village and the next. But can men – and women – in white coats find scientific proof that terroir exists? The answer is yes, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed grapes and wines produced in two neighboring villages in Burgundy’s Côte de Nuits: Flagey-Echezeaux and Vosne-Romanée. The Pinot Noir vineyards were less than two kilometers apart and managed by one producer.
Using technology including ultra high-resolution mass spectrometry, the team found that both grapes and wines had “distinct chemical signatures of environmental conditions… all contributing to the identification of the so-called terroir”. For example, there were clear differences in phenolic concentration, acids and sugars between the SAMPLES from the two villages.
This isn’t the first study to investigate the effect of a wine’s terroir on its chemical composition. However, the authors point out that “all of the studies so far have considered grapes and/or wines from different local areas, regions or even countries”, whereas this team of French and German scientists narrowed the distance between vineyards to an unprecedented two kilometers.

Having examined the chemical composition of each a specific site over three different years, the scientists found, like many others before them, that vintage variation actually played a larger role on the chemical composition of the wines.

Its “analyses revealed that even if vintages have the most significant impact on fingerprints, the most significant terroir differences are seen in the grapes of a given vintage.”
Rebecca Gibb

3rd June 2014

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