Pedro Parra digs dirt

pedro parra Wine enthusiasts know that where grape vines grow can contribute to the flavors of the resulting wine. But Pedro Parra has decided to dig a little deeper: the “terroir consultant” has excavated over 20,000 holes to study vineyard soils.

Based in Chile but trained in Paris, the Chilean has more views about soil than your average wine consumer. For one, he tries to drink only wines from a certain soil type, rather than amorphous blends. And even there, not even all soils pass the sniff test: clay soils produce wines that are too fruity and sweet for him, with sensations in the front of the mouth that he admits have broad appeal, though just not for him. He’s more of a schist, granite or limestone man.

To illustrate the flavor profiles of each type of soil, Parra led a tasting in New York City last week in a midday tasting at Hearth restaurant. Paul Grieco, a partner in the restaurant as well as the Terroir wine bars who was also chosen as the second most influential person in NYC wine, invited Parra to lead the tasting of 19 red wines, including several wines from his Chilean project, the Clos des Fous.

“When you have a chance to taste a lot of wine by rock, you will start to organize wines by rock,” Parra told the small group of people from the wine trade.

He offered us this primer:

* Limestone: you feel it first in the tongue and is more lateral.
* Schist: is powerful and lateral.
* Granite: always a little dry with a sensation more in the back of the mouth, almost in the jawbone.
* Gravel: wine is always more alcoholic and can have a burn on the nose.
* Basalt: similar to schist.

Armed with these generalities, we dove into the first flight. As they hailed from Barolo to Burgundy, there were so many factors to account for in the glass that it was hard to focus on the soil type alone. I decided that I liked limestone the best. Except for when the granite really came through. Gah–is this all a pile of schist? In the end, the most important variable was often the hand of the winemaker. That said, Parra argues there are often fundamental characteristics of certain vineyards that can’t be airbrushed out; he even told a vineyard owner frustrated at not being able to reduce the tannins in a wine that he should give up on that site and go to another soil type that would more easily produce the sort of wine he was looking to make.

Does the site actually transfer minerals from the dirt to the glass? Parra says that the discussion has lamentably been dominated by scientists. “It’s not minerals from the soil. It’s the sensation in the mouth – natural acidity or fake acidity.”

Paul Grieco, who sired the Summer of Riesling, told the group that he’s fine-tuning his winespeak: “I used to use the word minerality a shit ton; I’m trying to use different words and be more specific now.”

Soil type often leads vintners in the new world to new vineyard sites. Josh Jensen worked in Burgundy and then came back to California, looked for limestone and planted the vineyards for Calera. More recently, Keven Harvey and the team at Rhys have scouted sites scrupulously. Parra indicated that while other factors such as weather were involved, with a good site, “you start with a 50% chance of doing it better than the other guys.”

Asked about any up-and-coming areas based purely on geology, Parra surprised the room by declaring Canada as one to watch, specifically in the Okanagan Valley. He also added Armenia and Georgia, as well as a remote southern part of Chile.

In the end, there was a consensus at my table that the tasting left us with a lot of unanswered questions. That’s not a bad thing since the answers will be found in further tasting. And I’ll keep an eye out for soil types mapped on wines I’m tasting. Getting down and dirty, if you will.

pixel

5 Responses to “Pedro Parra digs dirt”


  1. This is the first in depth look at the soils that I’ve been able to compare with a series of three videos we did with Emmanuel Pageot on soil types for Grenache at his place in the Languedoc. I’m not sure this matches exactly, but it doesn’t look like its light years away from Pedro’s conclusions.

    Fun stuff, if you are a bit of a geek.

    * Limestone: you feel it first in the tongue and is more lateral.
    - Emmanuel says it’s the “flesh on the bones” which I think might compare to the lateral comment.
    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXYLLJcOMEk&list=PLddUmDhg4G_LQ4gG-QfR7c0ENnhrVQoJg

    * Schist: is powerful and lateral.
    - Emmanuel says Grenache on Schist is “pure Pinot Noir” but then adds “in the blend it’s going to be the bones, the backbone”, so maybe.

    Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbVYqf5kcY0&list=PLddUmDhg4G_LQ4gG-QfR7c0ENnhrVQoJg

    * Granite: always a little dry with a sensation more in the back of the mouth, almost in the jawbone.
    - No Comment from Emmanuel. The “almost in the jawnbone certainly holds us of Domaine de L’Ecu’s “Granite” Muscadet.

    Bauxite? Emmanuel seems to think it is ok at best for Grenache. Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjRGgOWly-w&list=PLddUmDhg4G_LQ4gG-QfR7c0ENnhrVQoJg


  2. That is so interesting. Garnacha is a favorite grape of mine and garnacha thrives on schist and granite soils (Wikipedia) I had a priorat just last night that was so chalky and dry and had a silty characteristic that I really liked. I also love St. Joseph and many sites are set on gneiss, granite and mica-rich schist. So far I’m a schist and a granite lover. I’m going to pay more attention to soils.


  3. […] Pedro Parra digs dirt Does the site actually transfer minerals from the dirt to the glass? Parra says that the discussion has lamentably been dominated by scientists. “It's not minerals from the soil. It's the sensation in the mouth – natural acidity or fake acidity.” Paul … Read more on Dr. Vino […]


  4. […] Pedro Parra digs dirt [via Dr. Vino] […]


  5. […] http://www.drvino.com/2014/02/06/pedro-parra-digs-dirt/#more-13460 […]


winepoliticsamz

Wine Maps


Classes

My next NYU wine classes: NYU

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

See my op-eds in the NYT
"Drink Outside the Box"
"Red, White, and Green"

Highlights

Monthly Archives

Categories


Blog posts via email


@drvino








Wine industry jobs

quotes

One of the “fresh voices taking wine journalism in new and important directions.” -World of Fine Wine

“His reporting over the past six months has had seismic consequences, which is a hell of an accomplishment for a blog.” -Forbes.com

"News of such activities, reported last month on a wine blog called Dr. Vino, have captivated wine enthusiasts and triggered a fierce online debate…" The Wall Street Journal

"...well-written, well-researched, calm and, dare we use the word, sober." -Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher, WSJ

jbf07James Beard Foundation awards

Saveur, best drinks blog, finalist 2012.

Winner, Best Wine Blog

One of the "seven best wine blogs." Food & Wine,

One of the three best wine blogs, Fast Company

See more media...

ayow150buy

Wine books on Amazon: