Saturday, October 11, 2008


I learned a new word today: "terrior." I was watching John Cleese's terribly useful program "Wine for the Confused." As someone who strives to be a bon vivant and home entertainer, I find that good wine knowledge and versatility is indispensible. He confirmed a personal bias of mine concerning wine, namely that your taste trumps. If you like sweet, find sweet wines and drink those. Just remember however, that not all sweet wines will go properly with all dishes, but that's a conversation for another time. Generally speaking, my track record with pairing wines and dishes is good, if not above average. I'm basing that on all the auction dinners I have done in people's homes. Not a bottle of swill in the bunch.

Back to the word, terrior. It looks like some sort of malicious dog breed, but it isn't. Terrior describes all the conditions, great and small, that go into outcome of a bottle of wine. Terrior encompasses rainfall, local climate, local foliage, topsoil, subsoil, vibration of the earth, literally everything plays a part in this outcome. This is what makes a 2000 version of, say, a Chardonnay, different from the 2003 from the same region and same vinter. I have a bottle laid up from a good California establishment that I have yet to uncork. I am planning a special dinner with some friends to open this up. More on that another time.

The notion of "terrior" though struck me in a funny way. Along with its power to make wine wonderful and diverse, this same idea is what makes people wonderful and diverse. As different as a bottle from the same vineyard and the same grape can be dependant upon the yearly conditions, so it is in families, so it is in schools, so it is in all aspects of society. The reason for this is the mystery of creation. Each man and woman aren't the outcome of a merely biological process; they are a creation. Each bottle of wine comes off the line and yes, you can point to all the "technical" steps that are needed to make a pinot or a merlot or a chardonnay, but those technical processes don't encompass the real meat of the matter. Just so with a human person: I can talk at length about meiosis and mitosis, and neurochemcial developmental theories, and Piaget versus Rogers versus whomever presents him or herself as the master of the age. Point being, you will understand something of the what of the person. You won't get the who as easily.

There are two take away points:
1.) Drink more wine.
2.) Drink in the unique encounter each human soul you encounter provides.


Adoro te Devote said...

OK, first, point taken, and great analogy!

Secondly...I thought I was a wine snob! (And especially when it comes to Pinot Noir, including the pronunciation!

And...if you haven't don't let wine connoisseurs make you watch "Sideways". While it has some great stuff on wine and things that people who love wine, or even people who want to love wine would the end, it's 3 hours of your life you'll never get back. You might as well spend it drinking wine and watching or reading something else. Or practicing virtue to make reparation for the degradation of the movie.

Trust me on this one (even though you don't know me).


If you HAVE seen that movie, I'd love your take on it. No holds barred!

Fr. S.T. said...

You are going to be disappointed, but I love that movie. Yes, even for the two scenes I know you are thinking of, the movie is pitch perfect. I would have to re-watch it to nail down all that, but those two scenes are meant, I think, to denote, the degredation of the Thomas Hayden Church character.
Frankly, I like Pinot Noir, but I am far more of a white wine drinker.

Benedicamus said...

Hey, great post! And you nailed it, as far as how wonderful terroir is. Can't be reproduced, can't be mass produced, and is essentially local.
By the way, I've got a blog you might be interested in: Catholicism + Wine (