Location for a vineyard is as important in wine as in real estate. The French term ‘terroir’ refers to the specific ambiance of a vineyard and how the different elements unite to
produce a unique microcosm. And of all the elements, soil- plain old dirt- plays the most important role.
But a recent article in the NY Times Science Times section puts emphasis on another dimension of location other than dirt: yeast. We know that the same grapes from different areas of a vineyard can be different. I recall very well that lesson learned in Germany’s Mosel Valley with a winemaker walking us through the Braunfels vineyard. Braun, as he pointed out, means brown and to emphasize that point, he scooped up a handful of dirt which indeed had a brown color. Then we followed him a few yards to
another vineyard when the soil was characteristically grey- different minerals. The Riesling grape from these two terrains yielded two distinctly different flavors. I was convinced!
Now it seems there is another factor at play besides soil: yeast. A researcher from Stellenbosch University in South Africa believes that different yeasts growing in the same vineyard can impart different tastes to the grapes.
The differences in yeasts from one part of the vineyard to another could be due to differences in sun exposure and temperature. These differences can yield vastly different
flavors. And organic biodynamic grape growing practices are more likely to encourage a diversity and complexity in the wine produced.