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Day 28 of the Clare Valley Vintage - Let's talk Terroir

Published:  23 July, 2008

G'day Folks. Perhaps it's the weather, maybe the planets aren't aligned or maybe the dog ate my homework.. je ne sais pas but I gotta tell you.. I've had it.. I'm crushed.

At this stage of vintage it's time to take a long hard look at yourself because in all honesty, at the neglected fermenting site of you - no one else will.

It's now about digging deep and reacquainting yourself with your sense of humour, co-ordination and basically reminding oneself why we're all here. If you're not a grape or a winery employee then chances are I've not spoken to you in weeks and since one could argue that my mental state is potentially a little precarious, you might think it safer to wait until winter anyway.

In recent days god knows it could have been anytime within the last 2 months I hosted a couple who sell KT and The Falcon Riesling at an uber groovy restaurant on the Woolloomooloo wharf in Sydney (Otto). Note to self - a clean set of clothes required.

What am I going to show them? It's a little early in my business history to do a vertical since there's only a few wines/juices on the bench. It's probably a little rude to ask them to plunge my ferments and help me rack juices and whilst I'd love to ask them to do a couple of loads of washing for me that could really be a little embarrassing.

So what would a city slicker not have seen much? Dirt and rocks me thinks and so any tour of mine MUST start at the source - so we head to the vineyard.

I love showing people the special place in the world that my wine comes from. There's something about the energy you receive from picking up the rocks and kicking the dirt that makes it a rejuvenating experience. It's about talking to the growers and watching where the light changes direction and shadows fall. It's picking up a handful of dirt that looks good enough to eat and rolling the rocks through your fingers that show the important properties of the patch that make it great. As a Sommelier or wine lover in general I know that this can only crystallize the palate sensation and help you appreciate what's in the glass. I want people to understand what makes me make my wine like I do. I hope friends the world over will fall in love with them like I have.

When it comes to dirt, I've told you before about the limestone - with its important water holding capacity but there's also the shale, the slate and the rose quartz. Whilst the scientific evidence of this may be scarce, I know from experience that these rocks can make the vine work harder and can regulate their canopy; they can also have healing powers and help build texture.

Where some people walk into vineyards and look at the grapes, I like to spend my time reviewing the messengers. The weeds, the rocks, temperature and wind direction can all help you make an assessment that will tell you what the grapes will inevitably look like or what the soil needs to improve its health. The old adage "Don't shoot the messenger" is so appropriate in this instance.

The concept of terroir in Australia is not new and nor is it neglected. We just need to make sure that we communicate it better than we have in the past and so by all means folks when you make it down to sunny Clare I'll be happy to show you.

After our wander through the vineyard covering topics from Johnny Cash through to harvesting dates and everything in between I think we decided that it was certainly worth the extra effort. I seem to remember a comment about it beating a desk job... or maybe it was something about getting your rocks off perhaps.

Kerri Thompson is winemaker/director of KT & The Falcon