Terroir Translates to Tūrangawaewae at Pinot Noir NZ 2017
Elaine Chukan Brown
Maynard James Keenan speaking at Pinot Noir NZ
What do Tool front man, Maynard James Keenan, Hollywood actor of Jurassic Park fame Sam Neill, and the world’s most respected wine writer, Jancis Robinson MW, all have in common? They each offered keynote addresses to an audience of over 600 people from 20 countries at the recent three-day Pinot Noir NZ 2017 event. Wellington, at the southern end of New Zealand’s North Island, played host. Considered one of the top wine events in the world, wine professionals flew in from across the planet to attend alongside devoted consumers and the best of New Zealand’s own winemakers.
Celebrated every four years, Pinot Noir NZ brings a different theme integral to quality for the variety to the fore. This year’s focus brought another dimension of discussion as it moved beyond technical questions of winemaking or chemistry to instead consider the place from which any of us gain our strength via the Māori concept, Tūrangawaewae. In brief, it means simply a place to stand, but as one of the most revered Māori terms, Tūrangawaewae refers to the place where we feel empowered – the place to which we belong, just as it belongs to us. In a wine context, Tūrangawaewae offers a new way of recognizing what it means to understand the power of a vineyard respectfully farmed and the wine it can produce for the responsive winemaker. For many of the winemakers of Pinot Noir NZ, discussion of Tūrangawaewae offered a means to translate the French notion of terroir into a New Zealand context where respect for multi-cultural life proves central.
Outside of France, terroir remains one of the most readily misunderstood and misused notions in the world of wine. Often taken in the United States to refer only to the soil itself, discussions of terroir often fail to take into account the holistic site of a vineyard that includes not only its literal earth with its particular mineral makeup and drainage, but also its slope and aspect to the sun, its dynamic microclimate, and especially too the history of its viticulture through cultivars chosen, planting styles established, and the ongoing farmers’ interactions with the vine. Terroir as a concept includes the multifaceted and dynamic interaction of the natural conditions of a vineyard with the very human choices that create the history and potential of that site. Part of the power of the word terroir in a French context comes from the comparative stability of a culture with thousands of years of viticultural history; but how do we understand our own viticultural potential in wine cultures only decades old?
To keep reading this article, click through to the free-for-all NZ Dirt email. The rest of the article explores how the Maori concept of Tūrangawaewae offers a way to bring notions of terroir into a new world context and how New Zealand in particular has advanced these ideas through their intensive sustainability efforts.
The rest of the NZ Dirt newsletter is worth a look as well. Check it out (free-for-all) here: http://pro.sumo.co.nz/t/ViewEmail/r/09EC442CB0E32AE42540EF23F30FEDED/8B1A56CC56573E889E794568BD214575