Le Nez du Terroir

The trend may have passed you by, but dirt tastings are becoming increasingly popular.  Yes, really!  Punters are invited to smell and taste soil along with the produce of that soil, and the astute taster will spot the ways in which the produce relates to the earth in which it is grown. Here are videos of a couple of dirt tastings to show you what goes on:

To really understand why your Burgundy tastes of farmyard, I am sure you can’t wait to get the soil of your favourite terroirs in your mouth.  Indeed there are an increasing number of producers that will let you do just that, encouraging you to taste their soil. But be careful of those vineyards where nasty chemicals are used.  It is probably best to stick to organic and biodynamic vineyards where only manure and copper sulphate are used.

Seriously now, please don’t put any soil whatsoever into your mouth – I will not be responsible for any ensuing medical problems.  I suggest you sniff only, and the simplest way is to do it is to use the latest addition to the Nez du Vin range – Terroirs.


This is one of their smaller collections of aromas, but nevertheless it makes a stirling effort to cover a wide selection of terroirs from around the world. They include both great terroirs and lesser ones, enabling you to understand the influence on wine quality.

1. Bourgogne
2. Romanée-Conti
3. Montrachet
4. Bordeaux
5. Château Latour
6. Château d’Yquem
7. Liebfraumilch
8. Bernkasteler Doctor
9. California
10. Screaming Eagle
11. South Eastern Australia
12. Grange

Nez du Vin do not specify exactly how they transform the soil into a form that can be appreciated on the nose, but I understand that that the Romanée-Conti sample is processed on root days, and stirred with clockwise and anti-clockwise vortices.  A good representative sample of soils is used, which is of particular importance for the larger areas covered.  Thus, just as the wines of South Eastern Australia may be a blend from all over the region, so is the soil in number 11.

Prices vary, so it is worth googling for the best deal, but as with all Nez du Vin kits of this size be prepared to pay around £50 or more. For what is essentially soil extract, is it worth it?  I think you get out of the kit what you put in in terms of effort.  I had to return my loan kit after 7 days, and in that time I couldn’t really distinguish between many soils.  Someone on the left hand video above commented that one soil was “quite subtle”, while another was “very subtle”, and I have to say that pretty much sums up the range of smells I could distinguish.  Having said that, after a lot of practice you could probably learn to recognise each of the 12 soils, and impress any friends you might have left at that point.  It probably helps if you have glasses of Blue Nun and Romanée-Conti to hand while you are sniffing the terroirs.  In fact a good idea for Nez du Vin’s next project would be to sell a set of bottles containing the corresponding wines, so you have all you need in two smart-looking boxes.

Update:  This post was taken seriously by a few people when first posted, so now April Fools’ Day is well gone it is probably only fair to point out that the Nez du Vin part is a JOKE.  However the introductory bit about terroir tasting is (as far as I can tell) completely true.

Author: Steve Slatcher

Wine enthusiast

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