Geo-sensory tasting with Château Fougas
At Château Fougas, we focus on sense of place in our wines. The soil, formed of water-borne and windblown colluvium, is laden with fine blue and red clay rich in iron and a variety of minerals, resting on a limestone bedrock of Fronsac molasse.
From the Middle Ages onwards, experienced tasters were tasked with certifying the geographical origin of Burgundy great growths as soon as they were released for sale. This newly-minted profession would subsequently be known under the term ‘Compagnie des Gourmets Piqueurs de Vins’, or specialist wine brokers. These highly accomplished wine tasters were capable of recognising a specific terroir or walled vineyard (clos) located within a few meters of each other, without ever making a mistake.
The geological structure of soils – limestone, clay, schist, sandstone or volcanic rock for instance – produces different flavors in wine that are easily recognisable to anyone who uses this traditional method of wine tasting. Terms used include ‘minerality’ in a wine, ‘taste of place’ and ‘terroir-driven wine’ or sense of place.
The climate is a second type of expression and refers to the exposure of a specific site to the sun, wind, cold and heat. These concepts are now similar to the more recent terms of biotope and biocoenosis.
However, since the industrialisation of wine, whereby over 200 chemical additives are now permitted, it has become extremely difficult to recognise taste of place, particularly since the use of pesticides and weedkillers has destroyed organic life in the soils and therefore the biocoenosis necessary for underscoring minerality!
At Château Fougas, we consider this to be ‘regressive progress’. It has also been accompanied by a trend for ‘sensorial’ tasting which favours the nose and sight rather than the more refined and complex palate where the mystery of ‘terroir’ is exuded.
Geo-sensory tasting calls on all the senses but focuses primarily on the tactile sensation on the palate, the scene for wine to express its full charm and elicit maximum pleasure.
Reverting to tasting by place
Tasting needs to be learnt, it is an art and culture which dramatically heightens the pleasure of tasting. We thus refer to:
– texture: a silky, velvety, smooth, rough or woven wine, likened to fabric
– consistency and sappiness: robust, fleshy, viscous or lush
– suppleness and elegance
– exuberance and complexity
– and finally, minerality, because although the mineral salts contained in wine have no smell, they can be perceived on the palate. They are the hallmark of living soils managed without the use of synthetic molecules or weedkillers and of a wine made with no additives (1).
Here, the more complex the ‘terroir’, the more complex the wine. We leave this indefinable charm to the tasting, which truly holds all its secrets.
This is precisely the kind of magic we are seeking at Château Fougas by farming our soils organically and biodynamically and by maturing our wines naturally with no chemical additives.
Let’s revert to the fundamental pleasures of the Land together…
(1) To find out more, read ‘La dégustation géo-sensorielle’ by Jacky Rigaux, published by Terre en Vues.