In the 13th century, monks in Burgundy were in the habit of taking a spoonful of vineyard dirt and taste it to assess the quality of the vineyard.
Or so they tell me.
Me, I am a geologist, and I’ve seen colleagues taste oil to assess its maturation, so I’m not surprised at anything anyway.
The interesting fact is this: in Medieval times, French monks had lots of land at their disposal, and in Burgundy they had set up vineyards as far as the eye could see. The climate was favorable, and the monks liked their wine anyway.
But a monk back then had a lot of spare time to observe nature, and so the good Benedictines and Cistercians started noticing trends. Vineyards that were more productive, vineyards in which a certain kind of vine thrived while another suffered, and so on.
They started calling these different parcels of land terroir – and started experimenting to define what made one parcel different from the next. Hence, the idea of sampling and tasting the dirt. Continue reading