AEG: Meinert on terroir

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Association of Environmental & Engineering Geologists

D.C. – Maryland – Virginia Chapter (

Thursday, February 22, 2018, from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM at ECS Mid-Atlantic office in Chantilly, VA.

AEG Members $40, Non-members $45 (includes dinner; student and retiree discounts available). Please register by Monday, February 19, via online payment (

Title:  Wine and Terroir – the science of good taste

A lecture and guided winetasting by Larry Meinert

Mounds of grape seeds in prehistoric caves testify that early people had more than a passing acquaintance with wine. Grapes naturally ripen to high sugar levels and, left on the vine, they will begin to ferment from the action of native yeasts on the skins. Perhaps our early ancestors plucked such fermenting fruit and with a smile, plucked a few more. Or maybe they observed the erratic flight of birds that had feasted a bit too much and wondered, as scientists are wont to do, about cause and effect.  Regardless of how people came to appreciate the joys of the grape, there is ample evidence in the earliest written documents that they were making and enjoying wine. The records of the ancient Egyptians and Greeks also contain observations that certain regions seemed to produce better wine than others. This observation carries through to modern times where the question is brought into sharp focus by the rather simple occurrence of two vineyards, side by side, that share most obvious aspects of climate, slope and viticulture, yet produce crops that are vastly different. Examples abound but perhaps the most spectacular are the vineyards of Burgundy, France, where the wines of Romanee-Conti have been highly valued for centuries (some bottles sell for thousands of dollars), while nearby vineyards produce wine that is sold as vin ordinare for less than a dollar a bottle. The simple question is, “Why?”  This special lecture and winetasting will address that question and many others, using examples from the vineyards of France and the United States. The lecture will be illustrated with a comparative tasting of wines from some of the regions described.

Larry Meinert’s interest in wine dates from growing up in an Ohio household where his father imported fine wine from Germany. He first became interested in the California wine country during his doctoral geological studies at Stanford University. Perhaps it is coincidence that his PhD advisor was not only a respected geologist but also owned part of the family winery in the famous Barolo area of northern Italy. After Stanford, he joined the faculty at Washington State University and Smith College and in addition to teaching geology for 30 years, operated a small home winery, specializing in a barrel-fermented Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and Malbec. He currently lives in Washington, DC and works for the U.S. Geological Survey. His teaching and research covers a wide range of fields from exploring for gold mines to liquid gold in bottled form – fine wine. He has published research on the physical factors (terroir) affecting vineyard siting and performance in several appellations of the U.S. and also Argentina, Chile, Italy, New Zealand, and South Africa.

Please refer to our meeting announcement for full details (