Terroir Tastings

If you read my lovely 

About Me

 section, you’d learn that I worked at a 

tea house

 before I came out to Austin. One love I had working at a tea shop was well, tea. It was my first experience with the art of the beverage. It was my first experience in understanding that location, climate, and topography can affect the taste of your drink (India or Sri Lanka, China or Japan?) or that the production processes affect its weight and color (black, green, or white tea, anyone?).

It was my first time understanding that depending on where that tea came from and how it was processed, cooked, stored, or added to (genmaicha or lapsang souchong?) could affect the experience that you have in your cute, little vintage teacup.

Leaving New York and after conquering every tea on the Alice’s Tea Cup tea list, I was ready for the next thing. I didn’t realize it at the time but landing my job at Fino led me to the next great step: wine.  Conquering wine has been one daunting task. It went right over my head. Was Arbois a vineyard, appellation, or an importer? Or none of the above? How does one ever learn the weather of every European country in every year since 1960 and what does that even mean for a grape? Those pencil shavings and forest floor aromas? Nope, don’t smell it. Dried apricot and gasoline flavor? Nope, tastes like alcohol.  Windows on the World? No, it’s all French names. Wine Bible? Nope, it’s still French.

I bring my troubles up to my lovely wine director and was recommended Alice’s Feiring’s 

The Battle For Wine and Love

. With this book, my mind was officially blown and not with overly academic articles but with passionate memoirs about the state of the wine world. It was a realization that the wine world was not as big of a beast as I was making it out to be. My biggest epiphany of all was that not all wine is worth knowing about.

Even this prestigious world of wine can be tainted with over-processing and questionable farming practices. I narrowed down my scope and wanted to bring it back to the idea that where your wine is from, its climate and topography, storing and processing has a direct effect on what ends up in your wine glass.


“This French word means the total impact of any given site-soil, slope, orientation to the sun, and elevation, plus every nuance of climate including rainfall, wind velocity, frequency of fog, cumulative hours of sunshine, average high temperature, average low temperature, and so forth. There is no single word in English that means quite the same thing.”- Wine Bible

Along with terroir, the processes of fermentation, storing, filtering, and etc. all affect what ends up in your wine glass. If all that means so much, I want a pure and untainted connection to the place where my drink is from or else wine is nothing but grape juice.

From this comes a new appreciation for the 

Fino wine list

 and its dedication to small producers, organic practices, and a true representation of Old World terroir. Why not begin my wine conquering here?  It’s also easy when you get paid to taste them on Wednesdays:

This Wednesday starts with D. Ventura. This producer is located in the Ribeira Sacra region in Galicia in Northwest Spain. Run by Ramon Losada and his family, two of the three vineyards lay on the banks of the Sil River. These happen to be the two that we carry at Fino- the ’09 Vina Caneiro and the ’09 Pena do Lobo. The Caneiro is strictly slate, the Pena do Lobo is a mix of slate and granite. Both have steep terraces that run along the bank of the river which cool the vines from this specific soil. It’s not called the “Sacred Shores” for nothing.

These regions of Spain only carry the Mencia grape. This varietal only coming into the limelight quite recently known for its currant red and pomegranate flavors. It’s very Pinot Noir-esque but the more exotic and lesser known version. The producers at D. Ventura take an organic approach to their 80+ year vines by fermenting with only indigenous yeast and storing in stainless steel barrels allowing very little of its 


 to be tampered with.

The ’09 Vina Caneiro is a little meatier, gamier with dark fruit and tannins. The ’09 Pena do Lobo holds a more musty quality but also more delicate with fresher fruit tastes of raspberry and strawberry.

See, it’s not so bad and scary after all. Conquering the huge world of wine might just be starting small.