Whenever two seemingly identical bottles (usually two bottlings made from the same grape(s) are on the “rack” at the same time, I’m often asked, “What is the difference between these two wines?”

Beyond offering descriptions of the flavors, scents and textures in our wines – with and without food – there are a litany of other factors that can contribute to the differences between two bottles sitting next to each other on our racks. (And unless you indicate to me that you’re already 15 minutes late for your dinner reservation, or the kids are out in the car with the windows rolled up, I will do my very best to elucidate those things for you)

A major factor in wine, and a word you will hear often at Moore Brothers, is “place”. (‘Our wines have a sense of place,’ and ‘Barolo is a place’).

Having recently traveled to Tuscany and Piemonte in Italy, the importance of “place” became glaringly apparent. The climate, the scents, the surrounding environs, the altitude – all there, washing over you, all contributing to that sense of “place”. But again, what makes those two bottles of wine from the same producer, of the same grape, seemingly from the same place, different?

On a drive after our morning visit with Sergio Germano in Serralunga D’Alba in Piemonte’s Barolo zone, and a brief stop for lunch on our way to visit Gianluca Grasso in Monforte, I saw it: a large part of the answer, in all it’s stark, chalky glory. I pulled the car over, as Sue (I think we’re all married to a Sue at Moore Brothers) sat wondering what kind of goof she’d married. Who would stop to take a picture of a hill of dirt, amongst all the other natural beauty of Piemonte.

In this picture of a vineyard site, that has been ripped up for replanting, you see varying soil compositions that yield very different characteristics from the same grapes, grown side by side, row by row, all in the same “place”.
barolo vineyard replanting

As Paolo DeMarchi (of Isole e Olena in Tuscany), so eloquently states, wine is made in the vineyards. Accordingly, a talented producer will recognize these variations in his/her land and can produce wines that are perceptibly different from what most people would consider the same “place”.

As if the sight of this hill was not enough of a visual explanation, ironically the point was further clarified in the tasting room of Paitin the next morning in Barbaresco.

In this photo, you can see they offer visitors a look at samples of their various soils, in large jars, right alongside the bottles of wine produced from their respective vineyard sites.

Here, you can see and taste the “place” all at the same time. What a great way to learn!

Posted by Pat McNally