Over on HuffPo, there’s a piece up about the Red Bicyclette/faux pinot saga. Jacqueline Friedrich, author of the guide The Wines of France, posted this comment as a reply. As it touches on some issues that astute readers will remember from Wine Politics, I reproduce her comment here with permission:
1) As a previous post-er said, rightly, Pinot Noir is a grape. It is not an appellation. Plant Pinot Noir anywhere – in Canarsie, in Wasilla, in Helsinki – if it bears fruit, that fruit is Pinot Noir. The Merlot that was supposedly used in the blend – the Merlot that makes, among other wines, Chateau Petrus – is not a traditional grape in the Languedoc either.
2) That thing we call Terroir: The language that you cite comes from INAO texts, the decrets by which appellations are defined. They are more hortatory than they are useful. The words “tradition” and “typicity” have done more to subvert the quality of French wine than a Gallo-Boisset partnership could accomplish in the wildest of their dreams.
IMHO terroir applies to that which is immutable: the soils, the subsoils, the elevation, the exposition, the opening of the countryside, the microclimate. While finding the right grape variety for a specific place is important, it is not the most important factor: terroir is. Plant Sauvignon Blanc in a Grand Cru vineyard of Chablis, treat it well, and you’ll have a great white wine. [In the name of typicité, such a practice is not allowed by the appellation. -Ed.]
3) As long as we encourage the production of great, terroir-specific wines, there is nothing wrong in allowing a parallel universe of beverage wines. I know that I was not born with a tastevin in my mouth. I started out with Mateus, Lambrusco Riunite and Zellerschwartzekatz (sp?) which had the added attraction of a plastic black cat attached to the neck of its bottle. We all start somewhere. There’s nothing wrong with well-made, reliably pleasant, affordable wines – so long as they don’t endanger “real wines.” In fact, they probably introduce people to wine in a non-threatening way and may lead a large percentage of those people to drink better and more authentic, site-specific wines.
4) And just for the record, I hated Mondovino. It was as simplistic and wrong-headed as this article. Nossiter, hyperventilating with a glass of Chablis on a terrace on the Place de l’Odeon with Charlotte Rampling. Spare me.