You could call them ‘patches of dirt’. Many do. It’s strange, though, that flippant disparagement: soil is the basis of human nutrition. No soil; no us. And vineyard soil stands at the summit of agriculture: the world’s greatest vineyards are the most prized and expensive morsels of agricultural land anywhere on our planet. This tells us two things. The first is that the chance to drink and taste great wine is a peerless pleasure for which those with resources will pay beyond reason. And the second is that only this patch of dirt will do. Only this patch makes that wine.
Great vineyards are unique; they elude duplication or substitution. We don’t yet fully understand why this is so, especially since such uniqueness is opaque in grape juice, the primary agricultural product, and only becomes apparent after the transformations of fermentation and ageing. But it is so.
Hence this feature. Why, long-term Decanter readers may exclaim, haven’t you done this before? The answer is that it’s so damn difficult. Our valiant contributors have fought their way through a blizzard of challenges to come up with this dozen, but we fully expect the list to be criticised and challenged again. We still think it’s worth doing – as a talking point, as a focus for reflection, as an incentive. And for fun.