I’ve just spent last week immersed in Pinot Noir 2017 in Wellington, where the focus has been on Turangawaewae, the Maori concept of a place to stand. Maybe this is better expressed as a place where we feel especially empowered and connected. This was presented very powerfully as an expression of our equivalent to the European concept of Terroir.
Initially these two concepts might be seen as being very different. Terroir is frequently seen as a reference to the soil or geology of a place (because of the “terre” root, meaning ground). Turangawaewae is a cultural concept.
But Terroir is essentially a human construct and a cultural one, after all vineyards are artificial constructs in themselves. Terroir may be a reference to ground, but Turangawaewae is a reference to being grounded. Not so much of a difference, then.
But there is another very interesting difference in terms of reference between the old world and the new one when it comes to thinking about wine and Terroir (or Turangawaewae). The old world reference is nearly always to the history of a site: wineries that have been producing for centuries, vineyards that have been tilled for a millennium. There is much to be said for experience, and a great deal to be valued in the centuries of artificial selection that have made grapes perfectly suited to individual places. But we have something equally unique.
At Felton Road, we have more than one vineyard site where we were the first human beings to ever turn that soil. Most of my family colleagues will also have seen similar opportunity. To be the first, after so many billions of years of this planet forming. That is unique, a very special privilege. A very special obligation not to mess it up as well. So, which is better? Would I rather have a thousand years of heritage along with both its wisdom and its baggage, or the chance to cut my own furrow, and be the first human to do it?
It takes a little longer to be a pioneer, but we need to value what we have, our Turangawaewae. We stand on our place and celebrate what makes it magical, rather than peer over to the other side of the hill to covet somebody else’s history.
Nigel Greening, Felton Road