View from The Vineyard: April

WRITTEN BY Shane Golden

April 30, 2024

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View from The Vineyard: April

by | Apr 30, 2024 | Fashion & Lifestyle

Shane Golden

30 Apr, 2024

Terroir, the Human Link

Shane Golden, Manager of Whelehans Wines

“The depths in particular, who knows what treasures”  Winnie, Happy Days, Beckett

There comes a time in every struggling wine writer’s career where the concept of “Terroir” and its influence in winemaking needs to be platformed and addressed. The battle-lines of interpretation are straight-forward. Terroir is either the most authentic and purest philosophical expression of a region made liquid, or the single greatest marketing ploy since Coca-Cola trademarked Santa Claus. Does the land speak, or does the soil resist answers? It is the wine world’s equivalent of Psychology’s nature-nurture debate.

First, back to the halcyon days of the late 90s when the Celtic Tiger was but a cub and the Y2K bug made many of us believe that planes were literally (and I‘m using that word correctly) going to fall out of the sky. Naomi Klein had also just released the benchmark anti-globalisation bible “No logo”. At the time it was considered essential reading for those who shared my wide-eyed idealism, who believe culture and place cannot be made uniform. Both the positive and negative aspects of globalization are legion but the fear of the increased homogenization of culture into a global style lacking local character was, I believe, well-founded.

This was certainly made flesh in the world of wine where an “International style” had started to develop during the mid-80s and was now starting to peak. Variations of rich, ripe fruit bombs, high in alcohol, overly-extracted with a good degree of new oak were in vogue at the time. Every wine drinker succumbs to their allure at some stage, myself included. And if this is the style you are partial to then please, drink on. Wine-making is to the fore here at the expense of regional accent and character. Playing the blind-tasting game with these wines has made fools of many experts, as even the grape type would be difficult to ascertain. Far easier would it be to guess the provenance of the oak.

This style at the time was considered thoroughly modern, but for every action there contains within, its own reaction. Our palates are in a constant state of flux, trends come and go. Consumers began to look for something more authentic and eco-conscious reflecting the times we live in.

An analysis of the written word, both in digital and print, shows that the words “terroir” and “terroir-driven” started to spike from the late 90s. That they have continued upwards ever since probably won’t surprise you. Consumers were on the lookout for something more genuine. So what could be more authentic than saying this wine that you adore can only come from this specific plot and time, beyond copy?

It bears emphasizing at this stage that terroir is seen as the all-encompassing and localized interaction of geography, flora, aspect, geology, micro-climate, topology, vintage, tradition et al. You may now begin to see why this idea continues to mean different things to different people. Taken altogether, these factors combine to produce something that can take you to places you’ve never been. At least, that’s the winemaker’s goal. You are the ultimate judge whether or not they succeed.

Burgundy is where this philosophy reaches its zenith. Since Napoleonic times, wine-labels here read more like archaic GPS systems, positioning the specific site of the vineyard and not a mention of the grape. Sometimes these plots contain no more than a few rows of vines. Essentially the winemaker here is saying that nothing can replicate their plot. It’s probably no coincidence that the modern Natural Wine Movement (a topic in its own right for another day)  with its emphasis on purity of expression started in the Beaujolais area of this region.

Because nature speaks through us, terroir should also encapsulate the human element. Coming from a rural Kerry background it’s fair to say I may never have heard a farmer discuss “terroir”. But listen to one discuss “the land” and you’ll soon realize this is terroir by another name. Here, where every seed, breed and generation of your family here is defined as being “of” somewhere.

The Bull McCabe’s speech during the rectory scene in the film adaptation of John B’s “The Field” best exemplifies this.

Father Doran: This is the Widow’s field. That’s the law. The common law.

Bull McCabe: There’s another law, stronger than the common law.

Father Doran: What’s that?

Bull McCabe:The law of the land.

Terroir is culture beyond the material. History, geology, philosophy, religion, life and death are all linked here.

Those of you good enough to follow my progress will know that I’ve begun the slow process of planting vines with the aim of trying to grow something drinkable and natural as possible. I hope that whatever results will at least speak of a sense of place.


Wine of the Month


Cantina Kurtatsch Sauvignon Blanc, 2022

If you were to pick a grape that highlights the concept of Terroir, Sauvignon Blanc wouldn’t be the most obvious choice. Wine lovers who operate a “less-is-more” philosophy, sometimes find its ubiquity and distinctly green, herby aromatics a bit too robust whether it hails from New Zealand or France, its two most popular sources. This Italian variation for me, is a Sauvignon Blanc for all.

Cantina Kurtatsch is a co-operative with its vineyards dominated by a wide variety of soils from the confluence of the Alps and the Dolomite mountain ranges. The climate is a mixture of Alpine, Continental and Mediterranean and this allows for an extra long harvest time.

A healthy dose of tradition plays its part too as grapes were first planted here by the Romans. This is terroir in the extreme.

The wine itself is complex, bright and pure. Classic citrus and tropical notes are all present but what sets it apart is its flinty, steely minerality highlighted by a length, saline finish. This is the taste of spring.

Alcohol: 13.5%

Grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Region: Alto Adige, Italy

Oak: None

Food:-Would pair well with herby Thai vegetable or fish dishes.

Sustainably Produced


  1. Ita

    Very interesting explanation, Shane. That sauvignon blanc sounds delicious.

  2. temp mail

    Your work has captivated me just as much as it has captivated you. The visual display is elegant, and the written content is impressive. Nevertheless, you seem concerned about the possibility of delivering something that may be viewed as dubious. I agree that you’ll be able to address this issue promptly.


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