I remember clear as day, the first time I took a sip of sangiovese. Silky smooth and rich, it was bursting with flavor. It tasted as if the winemaker had somehow managed to turn the air in Tuscany into some kind of magic liquid. A sip and a long breath and if you closed your eyes you could effortlessly picture yourself in the middle of a vineyard within sight of Florence.
Crazy, maybe, but true. And it’s not at all magic. It is pure science. There is a serious interaction between the vineyard and the surrounding flora that is both amazing and real. If you ever visited a vineyard, you may have noticed how at the end of some rows, there are beautiful rose bushes. Far from providing a simple visual enhancement, those plants are there for a very important reason. Rose bushes are very likely to show the effects of certain diseases well before they affect the vines, therefore providing an important red flag when the vineyard is under attack.
In the same way, certain plants will provide the soil minerals and oxygen, making sure the dirt stays healthy and provides ideal conditions for the growing vitis vinifera.
Even on a microbial level, local microbial flora found in wine must will affect the aroma and flavor of the wine you are going to drink. This leads to telling differences in style and flavor that are as much part of a terroir as the type of land and the climate.
So next time you look at a vineyard and think it looks great, remember the incredible interaction that is imperceptibly taking place right before your eyes.