Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac ‘taste of place’ studied

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 25, 2015
By Anne Schamberg (used with permission)

Most people go to Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac to sample the wine, but if you are a geologist researching terroir, then you might be offered a little taste of the soil.

Yes, mes amis, terroir is being studied right here in Wisconsin.

The term terroir—terre is the French word for land—refers to the concept that the microenvironment of a vineyard influences the taste and quality of the grapes grown there.

It’s the underpinning for the appellation systems used in various forms around the world. In France, for instance, it’s the appellation d’origine controlee label that indicates when a wine—or other agricultural product—is from a legally defined area and is made in a prescribed manner.

Snejana Karakis, a doctoral student in the Department of Geosciences at the UW-Milwaukee, is doing her dissertation on the “taste of place” as she describes it, with a focus on Wollersheim’s vineyards and their particular patch of earth. She and her academic adviser, Barry Cameron, chair of the Geosciences department, first visited the winery in 2013. And it was then that winemaker Philippe Coquard mixed vineyard soil with water and had them give it a try.

Barry Cameron and doctorBarry Cameron and doctoral student Snejana Karakis

Barry Cameron and doctoral student Snejana Karakis

Cameron’s main fields of research are igneous petrology, volcanology and terroir. The interplay between geology and wine caught his attention in Italy in 2011 when he came across terroir-influenced wines such as those from vines grown on the volcanic slopes of Mount Etna. So he was pleased when Karakis, who majored in geosciences as an undergraduate at UWM, decided to delve into the terroir of Wollersheim, analyzing factors such as soil composition, drainage, aspect, elevation and slope. Karakis, who hopes to graduate in December 2016, also works part time as a geologist for Environ, an environmental consulting firm in Brookfield.

Read the original article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (used with permission)