Scott McDonald wrote: ↑
June 9th, 2020, 8:15 am
"On paper, Burgfest is an examination of terroir, since flights are organized by vineyard."
I disagree with Neal's premise here. In fact, it would seem the way the Burgfest tasting is set up is designed to largely ELIMINATE terroir as a variable, so that you can isolate and compare winemaker/viticulture influence. If you wanted to examine terroir, you'd organize the tasting by producer, comparing a single producer's Mazis-Chambertin, Latricières-Chambertin, and Chambertin-Clos de Beze to each other.
It would seem the Burgfest tasting is designed to highlight precisely the winemaker influences he's complaining it's being overwhelmed by. Although I might agree with his conclusion that winemaking signatures overwhelm terroir signatures, I think he misunderstands the purpose of the format of the tasting.
As someone who has asked the exact same question that Neal Martin discusses in the quoted paragraph—and asked it recently, on WB, at least couple of times—I don’t think he’s wrong to raise the issue at all.
To be clear, I’m not making any claim about the intentions of the folks who organize or run this tasting, its stated purpose, or anything along those lines. I’m simply saying it’s a perfectly valid question for a wine writer to pose, and that a tasting organized the way this one was could reasonably prompt such a question.
I take it as uncontroversial to say that all of us on this site make vintage generalizations: that is, when we talk about wines from some region—and it can be small (the Saar), it can be large (“Wester Europe”), it can be in between—we attribute certain of their characteristics to factors that vary from year to year (usually weather and temperature related). Again, all of us
do this, and none of us think twice about it.
At risk of stating the banally obvious, there are two ways one can try to identify vintage-specific characteristics: by tasting within a vintage, and attempting to note commonalities, or tasting across vintages, and attempting to note differences. Presumably, we all do both.
It's perfectly legitimate ask whether certain wine characteristics are common to a particular site, as well. To be sure, this kind of generalization isn’t as common in wine talk as vintage generalizations are. But at least imho, it’s not at all rare, at least when people are discussing high prestige wine producing regions such as Burgundy, the Mosel, Napa, Piedmont, etc. If you think I’m wrong about this, don’t hesitate to say so; but I feel like I encounter these kinds of statements fairly regularly.
Here again, one way to warrant this type of claim is by holding invariant both vintage and site, and then tasting across producers in order to detect commonalities. One could also juxtapose against other sites, in order to detect differences. Etc.
To be clear, I’m not saying that I agree with Neal Martin’s conclusion that producer trumps site, in Burgundy or anywhere else. All I’m trying to do is argue that it’s a perfectly legitimate question to ask within the context of a tasting like the one being discussed, and to point out that some (many?) of us talk in these terms fairly often.
Lastly, while the mantra about producer over site and vintage certainly holds to a large extent in Burgundy pricing, it’s equally true, as Wes Barton pointed out, that within producers (i.e. within the lineup of individual producers), pricing almost always
follows the same terroir hierarchy. So the premise that cross-producer site-level characteristics play a significant role in wine quality is certainly well-rooted in the market.