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03.23.2005

Terroir Doesn't Exist and Parker Is Pricey

This just in from the Royal Economic Society of Britain: The traditional French concept of terroir is a figment of the imagination, but the influence of Robert M. Parker, Jr. on the price of a wine is not.

These two topics were among several presented at the scholarly gathering in Nottingham, England yesterday.

Just when you thought the French wine industry had been beaten down enough. A study from the University of Reims and Victor Ginsburgh of the Université Libre de Bruxelles says, "You know that terroir thing we've been talking about for centuries? Yeah. Well. Um. It's Bunk. Useless. Fake. Imaginary. Doesn't exist." Can you hear the alarms for the pacemakers of old artisan winemakers and French chateau owners from where you're sitting? The study of soil composition and winemaking techniques across the Medoc region of France found that winemaking techniques, not soil, were responsible for the complexity of wine that is normally attributed to terroir.

This will be dismissed, perhaps rightly, as highly contentious and flawed research. Anyone who has drunk enough wine, and in particular, tasted barrel samples from different regions of a vineyard will know that different soils and microclimates, even within a vineyard, will produce wines that can taste wildly different, even given identical winemaking techniques.

Also presented at the conference was a bit of research that wins my vote for the most unnecessary wine related research inquiry of the decade. Apparently a good Parker score adds about 15% to the price of a wine. The more he likes a wine, the higher the price goes.

What I want to know is how much money these guys got paid to figure that one out.

Well, at least they gave us an exact figure. The average "Parker Effect" apparently adds 2.90 Euro ($5.36) to the price of a wine. Seems low to me.

Read about both research presentations here.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.