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Wine is truly a unique beverage when compared to others. Beer, sodas and spirits (with few exceptions such as scotch) generally taste the same bottle after bottle, year after year because the consumer expects consistency and these beverages are made with consistently flavored ingredients.

Wines, on the other hand, are much more distinct with variances from year to year. This is because grapes are sensitive to their environment and take on characteristics from the soil, temperature, amount of rainfall and environmental influences such as nearby crops, bodies of water and even wildfires. With ever-changing conditions, no two growing seasons are the same — that is why a 2005 Napa Valley wine will taste different from a 2007, even when produced from grapes grown in the same vineyard.

The most astonishing example was at a recent tasting with Jacuzzi Vineyards in Sonoma. Winemaker Charlie Tsegeletos provided a barrel sample from one of Jacuzzi’s vineyards growing Barbera grapes in Mendocino. The glass was filled with smoky and burned aromas. These aromas made sense after we were told the vineyard was blanketed in smoke from northern California wildfires during the growing season.

Neighboring crops can influence flavors as well, for example Australian vineyards grown near eucalyptus trees have a spicy, mint-like aroma in the wine. Even bodies of water can play a role; sherry aged near the sea takes on salty characteristics.

The experience of tasting a unique creation of the natural environment has been described as having “the earth in a glass” and is one of the great pleasures of wine drinking.


  • 2007 Yali Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet-Carmenere, Chile (about $12 retail)
  • 2006 Cellar No. 8 Cabernet Sauvignon, California (about $12 retail)
  • 2006 Clean Slate Riesling, Germany (about $13 retail)


  • 2007 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand (about $20 retail)
  • 2007 Bonny Doon Vineyard Ca’del Solo Albarino, California (about $25 retail)
  • 2005 Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico, Italy (about $30 retail)