I was reading the New York Times Magazine on the plane and came across an interesting article on terroir, “Talk Dirt to Me“. I know I’ve already written about this subject but I thought this article’s findings were worth sharing. Essentially, what the author argues is that the terroir taste of wine does not come from the actual minerals in the soil where vines are grown. Many wine tasting notes talk about minerality or a mineral flavour; however, this apparently does not come directly from the rocky soil. Terroir can not be taken to literally mean earth in this sense.
In my opinion terroir is a complex relationship between land and culture. This is particularly well demonstrated by olive oil production: climate and soil determine what cultivars (varieties of olive trees) can grow in the area; unique agricultural techniques develop over time and become local traditions; cuisine is shaped around local products and growing seasons.
When I pour some olive oil from Amelia on a piece of toasted bread I do taste the colli Amerini. It is different than any other olive oil and is a reflection of each unique year. I never imagined I could taste the rocky red soil but I do know that for me the taste of Amelia Oil is one tied to place, a place that is large in my memory and personal experience.