WHAT MAKES WINE TASTE EARTHY?
As the Autumn closes in around us, the morning temperatures are now distinctly chilly and we start eating root veg and stews instead of salads, the need for earthy, warming wines is growing. Wine is always so seasonal, but what is it that puts the earthy into our Pinot Noir?
It is possible that the chemical compound ‘geosmin’ is what makes our wine earthy. It is a Greek word that means earth smell. It is also what gives beetroot its distinctive aroma so loved by young children!
How does it get into wine? Well a number of things can impart this aroma. Certain grapes are more likely to have it, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Sangiovese for example but it also depends on where they are grown. Cab Franc from the Loire has that vegetal, green pepper character in youth which can develop into earthy aromas with age. From Napa, Cab Franc is much richer and fruitier.
Similarly, Sangiovese from the hills of Emilia surrounded by woods, mosses and mushrooms seems to absorb the earthy qualities of its surrounding. So we can attribute this earthiness to the imperceptible notion of ‘terroir’.
Both above factors are exacerbated with age. A Montepulciano d’Abruzzo which is a fruit bomb in youth can become a leathery, earthy beast after 10 years or so. And of course, these qualities are not just unique to reds, think Romorantin, old Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, even Riesling, all white wines which can exhibit definite earthiness, especially when older.
Finally, the obvious and most crucial factor to get soil in your Sangiovese is natural production. The more the wine is manipulated, and chemicals are injected into the soil, the more these contributing factors are lost and the wine becomes bland and standardised. For authenticity, it has to be natural.
So in the hope you are all - like us - reaching for your earthy reds and searching for autumnal aromas in your whites to go with the your mushrooms, we have to put together a lovely mixed case of Autumn wines. Cin Cin!
PS Keep an eye out for the tasting too, on the next blog…