WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby David M. Bueker » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:13 pm

The problem with Kramer's argument is that he defines typicity without acknowleging that his "typicity" is very likely an expression of place. Adam Lee's pepper-less syrah is another expression of place. Kramer could just as easily said that if it does not smell of bacon fat then it is not syrah. Well he's wrong. And as usual he is trying way too hard to make some kind of point.

Syrah from SLH should taste different from syrah from Cote Rotie. Pinot from SLH shold taste different from Pinot in Vosne. Now if a wine from a certain place is made well and still tastes bad, then you might be onto something Mr. Kramer (there's a lot of well made but vapid California Merlot with your argument on it).
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Sun Jun 04, 2006 8:25 pm

David M. Bueker wrote:The problem with Kramer's argument is that he defines typicity without acknowleging that his "typicity" is very likely an expression of place. Adam Lee's pepper-less syrah is another expression of place. Kramer could just as easily said that if it does not smell of bacon fat then it is not syrah. Well he's wrong. And as usual he is trying way too hard to make some kind of point.

Syrah from SLH should taste different from syrah from Cote Rotie. Pinot from SLH shold taste different from Pinot in Vosne. Now if a wine from a certain place is made well and still tastes bad, then you might be onto something Mr. Kramer (there's a lot of well made but vapid California Merlot with your argument on it).


As I have come to expect from you, good thoughts well expressed. More and more, I'm thinking the failure of imagination here is trying to force a variety into such a small and narrow frame (with said frame created by the same person), and that frame being ruthlessly subjective, David.

I can comprehend that view....perhaps, just perhaps... when you're talking about expression of terroir, because you are after all talking about a single, fixed place that changes only slowly over time, and with results you can asssess and compare (i.e., Burgundian domains and Alsace Grand Crus, let's say, since we are talking single places with single grape varieties, thus making the focus easier).

But with varieties??? I can't fathom someone who is so locked into their own narrow perceptions about what a variety is that they can state unequivocally "if it ain't pepper, it ain't syrah".

I kinda think that attitude says much more about the person making the statement than the wine in question.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Adam Lee » Mon Jun 05, 2006 1:15 am

Hey Randy,

I definitely don't want to get into an arguement. With a new baby in the house I don't have the time! :lol:

Here's my question - and it has to do with the typicity of Syrah. If you think our Pinot, for example, have more in common with Syrah than Pinot - then what is it that you are tasting that makes you think that? Wouldn't whatever that is be what defines Syrah typicity. And, perhaps I am wrong, but I would guess it isn't pepper in our Pinots that makes you think they are Syrah Pinots.

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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Randy Buckner » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:04 am

I wish I could answer that, Adam. The lines have become so blurred on wines that if I did not have a fact sheet in front of me, I wouldn't have a clue what the sample wine was that I was drinking.

I went through some Cab, Shiraz, Mourvedre, and Grenache tonight from Australia that I swear I could interchange labels. Carole always tries every wine sample I review. Her palate is very sharp -- she kept asking what variety is this?

We all have mental standards/memories for flavors. We don't confuse asparagus with broccoli, nor oranges with kiwi fruit. I have mental standards for what Cab, Zin, Pinot, Syrah, etc. should taste like. In fact, that is part of the California State Wine Judges exam I took -- identifying varietal wines.

Unfortunately, so many wines I taste today should just be stamped "Generic Red Wine." Who the hell knows what it is? Yes, it may taste good, but it doesn't taste typical. Is that wrong? Obviously not to a lot of people. It is for me personally. I want to smell a wine and immediately set off a memory circuit that says this is Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling....

Different versions? Sure! I love a Sancerre as much as I love a good NZ SB. I can tell they are SB -- just different regions. Then come the overoaked Chardonnay wannabes that I challenge people to guess what the hell it is.

I'm not just picking on CA. OR makes some lovely Pinots, then again there are versions I would never guess blind were Pinot. If I picked up a bottle of the latter to go with my Yukon River salmon that night for dinner, I would be disappointed.

Keep on fighting the good fight....
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby David M. Bueker » Mon Jun 05, 2006 9:54 am

One comment I will make about Bucko's Pinot-Syrah wines is that in my experience they become much more Pinot like with 2-3 years of age. I have been drinking a number of 2001 Siduris lately, and they are very much Pinot Noir. There's plenty of berry (there you go Matt Kramer...) and the alcohol has integrated.

The same goes for wines like the Lorings/A.P. Vin - age them for a year or two from release, and the over-the-top-ness goes away. They are still happy little fruit bombs, but they are definitely Piniot Noir.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:20 pm

TomHill wrote:(stirring the pot a bit on a Wed morning)


I'm coming to this discussion very late, but to stir the pot just a little more, it strikes me that Kramer has started a very good argument on a very good topic, but that he illustrates it with a very bad example: "Pepper" is not a <b>terroir</b> issue with Syrah, in my opinon. It's a <b>ripeness</b> issue. It reads as <i>terroir</i> only insofar as the grape is far less likely to ripen fully (or over-ripen) in the Northern Rhone (except perhaps in 2003) than it is in Australia or California.

Ditto Mourvèdre, for that matter: That lovely green, forest-floor/treebark character of Bandol disappears in the New World, not because of <i>terroir</i> but because of heat.

The discussion is a good one. But unless he provides context in the full article (which I haven't read), he's way offbase in the declaration that Syrah without pepper isn't Syrah. He's wrong. It's just <i>ripe</i> Syrah.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:53 pm

Good point, Robin.

There is such range around the world in Syrah/Shiraz---especially right now---that you definitely have to take the climate into account (and thus, terroir) when you delineate varietal characteristics.

Syrah appellated as South Eastern Australia (which covers a hell of a lot of territory), for instance. And what's grown in Murray Darling is way different from what's grown in McLaren Vale. Ditto the Central Valley in CA as opposed to, say, Monterey. Heck, just in Monterey there's a vast difference between the Hames Valley and the Salinas Valley alone.

So, yes, warmth, and resulting ripeness of fruit has a direct affect on the characteristics of Syrah. No doubt. And you also have to factor soils in to the equation as well, don't you?
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Randy Buckner » Mon Jun 05, 2006 12:58 pm

"Pepper"


I often get pepper in Zinfandel as well. You make a good point about just trying to use pepper as the defining issue.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 05, 2006 2:25 pm

Hoke wrote:And you also have to factor soils in to the equation as well, don't you?


I wonder, though. From the standpoint of the Europhile <i>terroirist</i>, I find it easy to argue that <i>terroir</i> can range from muted to imperceptible in the bigger, more fruit-forward style of New World wines. This may bring us back to the maker's stool-leg, but I'd argue that it's certainly possible to make wines in such a way as to minimize the effects of the soil.

To continue hammering my particularly dead hobbyhorse, though, I'm still arguing that pepper in Syrah is not an issue of <i>terroir</i> at all.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:20 pm

To continue hammering my particularly dead hobbyhorse, though, I'm still arguing that pepper in Syrah is not an issue of terroir at all.


Huh? Whassat? Run that one by me again, would you?

You stated that climate influences taste, in that a warmer climate might eliminate the pepper characteristic that some folks identify with Syrah.

Then you say that pepper in Syrah is not an issue of terroir at all.

Isn't climate part and parcel of terroir. Unless you don't think climate is terroir because it's a macro thing (scratching his head through his sparse remaining hair and looking puzzled) and terroir is definable only as a micro or meso thing?

I find myself in the interesting position of agreeing with you (re the pepper and climate thing), and then taking issue with agreeing with you.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:38 pm

Hoke wrote:Isn't climate part and parcel of terroir.


Maybe I'm too much of a terroir fundamentalist, but the word means soil and the term, to me, connotes more about soil than other environmental issues. Probably the macro/micro/meso/MinnieMouse issue is in play too, but mostly, it just doesn't strike me that a characteristic clearly attributable to ripeness has anything to do with what I think of as terroir. Pluck a Syrah grape underripe wherever it grows, from Hermitage to Barossa, and you'll get black pepper. Is that terroir?
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Mon Jun 05, 2006 3:58 pm

Okay, I sorta see what you're saying.

We just look at terroir from a slightly different point of view, thassall.

I don't see it as just soil; that's the major diff.

When I say terroir, I'm taking into account the general climate, the soil composition, the angle of the slope, the inclination, the relative humidity. drainage, porosity, blahblahblah. So I factor in first the climate; if the climate is warmer that has to be a consideration for how you grow the grapes.

I guess the easiest way to say it is...oh, lessee, the Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. Generally, it's cold climate, right? But within that generally cold climate there are certain areas that have been selected, primarily because of the combination of soil and exposure to sunlight. But in the Monterey/Salinas Valley, which is a very cold area within what is considered a warm climate zone, you generally don't have to worry about sunlight, in part because of the very, long and fairly temperate growing season. So you end up having to consider canopy managment.

To me, that's all terroir consideration. Nothing exists in isolation: soil alone is only one factor in terroir.

That's why stools have at least three legs. Easier to keep your balance that way---even if you don't pay close attention to the physics and engineering principles that make that three legged stool more stable than the one legged variety. :)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 05, 2006 5:49 pm

Hoke wrote:When I say terroir, I'm taking into account the general climate, the soil composition, the angle of the slope, the inclination, the relative humidity. drainage, porosity, blahblahblah. So I factor in first the climate; if the climate is warmer that has to be a consideration for how you grow the grapes.


I really don't disagree either, Hoke, and think what we're dealing with here is the very fuzzy definition of terroir.

Even with a fuzzy boundary, though, pepper in Syrah strikes me as near the outer edge of the uncertainty zone, both because it's more a matter of ripeness than geography - underripe Syrah is peppery even in a warm climate zone; ripe Syrah is not, even in a cool zone - but also because of the macro issue you mentioned. Even if I agree in general with your Elements of Terroir theory, I'd rank specific-location criteria - soil, angle, sun exposure - as more significant than broad climate considerations.

Here's a question to riddle with: Paul B loves that rubbery, sulfury character in many South African Pinotages. Is that terroir? It's certainly an identifiable marker that characterizes many of the region's wines - yet it's almost certainly an artifact of the broad use of heavy sulfuring for reds in the region. It's typical of a region - and it's directly attributable to the wine-maker's hand. Is it terroir?
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WineMaker's Hand In Terroir....

Postby TomHill » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:02 pm

Robin,
If you haven't read it yet, Mark Squires has a very intelligently written/well-reasoned & thought out piece on his e-Zine section of his board. If you've not read it, I'd strongly recommend it to you and all others. He minimizes the terroir effects and addresses the effect of the winemaker on terroir. A very good read.
As long as we have this nebulous concept of terroir, we're going to have wine geeks
discussing it till the cows come home (Kansas colloquialism for "forever"). Like beauty or
pornography, easy (well...maybe NOT so easy) to recognize but damnably difficult to define.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:05 pm

Here's a question to riddle with: Paul B loves that rubbery, sulfury character in many South African Pinotages. Is that terroir? It's certainly an identifiable marker that characterizes many of the region's wines - yet it's almost certainly an artifact of the broad use of heavy sulfuring for reds in the region. It's typical of a region - and it's directly attributable to the wine-maker's hand. Is it terroir?


Third leg! Third leg! It's more the human influence than the nature of the grape or the creation of the terroir.

Most of the wines we taste....especially those at cheap to affordable prices, but even a whole bunch of the cultish ones...are more inflenced by the human element than either variety or terroir. Some so much so that little but the human inflence emerges: case in point, in another thread when we talked about Spanish wines, for years and years the dominance of the human element was pretty much all you COULD taste in Spanish wines.

Always fun to discuss the three elements and their various weights when you're talking about Champagne, too. Or Port. Or Sherry. Or Madeira.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:18 pm

Hoke wrote:Third leg! Third leg!


That hit me funny! :lol:
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:37 pm

That's because you're a Liberal, and all Liberals are godless Libertines---which is similar to, but not really the same as, a Libertarian.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby MikeH » Tue Jun 06, 2006 12:55 am

Randy Buckner wrote:
I'm not just picking on CA. OR makes some lovely Pinots, then again there are versions I would never guess blind were Pinot. If I picked up a bottle of the latter to go with my Yukon River salmon that night for dinner, I would be disappointed.

Keep on fighting the good fight....


Just had that happen to us the other night. Copper River salmon grilled on an alderwood plank. Pulled a bottle of Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles PN to go with it. Neither the wife nor I could recognize the wine as Pinot. In fact, it was so tannic we would have guessed CS, Merlot, or Syrah first. No Pinot nose, nada.

We were not amused. So I guess we're with Cramer on this one.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Hoke » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:04 am

Mike, I certainly wouldn't use Rabbit Ridge as a reference PN. And definitely not if it was from Paso Robles.

Paso might make some great Zins and Syrah, but it is not Pinot Noir country. Too darn hot.

Plus, I have to say I wouldn't buy a Rabbit Ridge for any reason...I think the owner has shown himself to be a person I wouldn't care to support with my dollars. (You want more than that, we'll have to go to backchannel)
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Randy Buckner » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:46 am

Just had that happen to us the other night. Copper River salmon grilled on an alderwood plank. Pulled a bottle of Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles PN to go with it. Neither the wife nor I could recognize the wine as Pinot. In fact, it was so tannic we would have guessed CS, Merlot, or Syrah first. No Pinot nose, nada.


My point exactly, Mike. I'm a little surprised at Rabbit Ridge though, because Erich usually turns out pretty decent QPR wines. Paso gets damned hot, but so does Calistoga.

He and his wife Joanne were on a tour with us in the Rhone. They are quite the characters, despite some negative press they have received concerning the Healdsburg winery property. They were fun to travel with.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Covert » Tue Jun 06, 2006 6:28 am

Agree with what you said.

Kramer whorships at the alter of paycheck. I have thought about how hard it would be to write a column every month and say anything after a while. After maybe eighteen columns or so, I think I would write 'f--- y--' and be done with it.

It is fun, though, to read those columns to see just how vapid ideas can be, just after you think you have seen the dullest one possible.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Robin Garr » Tue Jun 06, 2006 10:10 am

Covert wrote:whorships


Freudian slip, or snarky neologism? I'm not sure I'd bash Kramer as hard as you do, Covert. He's one of the better writers out there, although - as in the subject article - he sometimes seems to "troll" a bit. He's really too good for the Speck, though.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Covert » Tue Jun 06, 2006 11:12 am

Neologism - but not so new to me; I use it now and then when I think it fits.

But I don't mean to bash Mr. Kramer any more than any other columnist. It’s really tough to come up with something fresh every month that will appeal to a broad range of IQ and knowledge levels. I couldn't do it and I applaud anybody who can. The stuff I am interested in almost nobody writes about. I'm the odd man out, not Kramer.

My argument for dullness in this instance: Matt’s view about typicity seems to assume that any new expression of a particular grape must be less interesting than the traditional one. If some remarkable new-to-the-game terroir produced a much different but more remarkable expression profile from a particular grape, his argument wouldn’t stand up. It’s a little lazy, in my opinion.

I don’t have the magazine with me, though, and I read the column quickly a week ago. Hope I didn’t miss the point.
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Re: WS/Kramer: Worshiping At The Altar Of Varietal Typicity...

Postby Paul B. » Tue Jun 06, 2006 1:17 pm

Robin Garr wrote:Paul B loves that rubbery, sulfury character in many South African Pinotages. Is that terroir? It's certainly an identifiable marker that characterizes many of the region's wines - yet it's almost certainly an artifact of the broad use of heavy sulfuring for reds in the region. It's typical of a region - and it's directly attributable to the wine-maker's hand. Is it terroir?

Well ... I wouldn't say it's a rubbery or sulfury thing that I enjoy; to me the quality in SA Pinotage (and most SA reds, come to think of it) is more akin to coal and leather - what I call a "coal-fired village" element; it's not like the rotten-egg or popcorny or garlicky taste of an oversulfited wine.
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