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My Incredible Personal Secret in Tuscany

Posted: Apr 1, 2008 10:06am ET

I have had some reservations about blogging what I am about to tell you. Some may believe it is unbelievable. Others may applaud such a fine specimen for being so highly sensitive and educated. But I really don’t care. I think it is time to tell the world the truth.

It’s taken me years to train my terrier Archie, but he finally has the ability to detect good terroir with his nose. If I walk him through a vineyard just about anywhere in Italy, he can detect whether the soil has the potential to produce outstanding wines. Yes, wines of 90 points or more!

I have been secretly training the white-furred genius with the help of a local white truffle hunter called Cesare Turini, who also doubles as a wine merchant. Cesare has award-winning dogs that can scent a white truffle from about a quarter of a mile away. His house is full of the precious mushrooms every autumn, and he makes bags full of cash with the stuff. “I no need to sell the wine anymore because my dogs dig up so many truffles,” he said. “Super Tuscan is stupido. Tartufo the best.”

Anyway, Cesare has been training Archie every week to understand the truth about great soil. It’s rather simple. Archie spends a day tied to a vine at Sassicaia or Ornellaia and then spends a day in a vineyard in Vino Nobile di Montepulciano or Chianti Arentini. At Sassicaia, he is fed Florentine T-bone steaks as he waits while in lesser terroir only receives only cheap dry dog food and water. Archie got the idea really fast! He is much like his master and understands value of a great steak.

Now, Archie can find great terroir in just a minute or two after visiting a vineyard. If he thinks it’s a great terroir, he promptly sits down. If he is convinced otherwise, he just stands there, or runs around. Very bad soil and vineyards may receive even worse treatment but I don’t want to get into the details of that now.

If you don’t believe me, please check out the video.

You may ask why this is important for a wine critic such as myself. Well, it's for selfish reasons. I am hoping that this might lighten my load in the 4,000 wines I have to taste each year for the magazine. Think of it. I can just take a walk in a vineyard and essentially score the wines made there without ever sticking my nose in the glass. Man’s best friend does it for me! That’s right, my pal Archie comes through for his master!! (He might also be useful for my colleague Bruce Sanderson, who is a student of terroir, and writes extensively about every grain of soil wherever he visits.)

What a dog, and what an April Fool’s Day as well.

Albert Jochems
The Netherlands —  April 1, 2008 1:41pm ET
Luciano Gaja
April 1, 2008 2:08pm ET
Hello James, Archie can do the same in Bordeaux terroirs? or just the tuscans?
Troy Peterson
Burbank, CA —  April 1, 2008 2:44pm ET
James, that was nearly as good as the joke a few years back about using the earth to conduct communication signals underground. Nicely done!
Marvin Shanken
New York City —  April 1, 2008 2:45pm ET
very cute!
David Nelson
CA —  April 1, 2008 3:17pm ET
got me!
Michael Schulman
Westlake Village, CA —  April 1, 2008 4:20pm ET
James,Obviously your dog is a Terroir, not a Terrier.Michael
Jim Mcclure
DFW, Texas —  April 1, 2008 4:48pm ET
Excellent! Thanks for the laugh and fun video!
James Laube
Napa, CA —  April 1, 2008 6:04pm ET
I now recall that Archie snagged my steak one night at your house when I wasn't looking!
Eric P Guido
New York, NY —  April 1, 2008 8:59pm ET
Funny. Looking quite the rock star yourself in this video. Too bad we can't all have an Archie.
Trevor Witt
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada —  April 1, 2008 10:41pm ET
James...Great post. Archie must have been extremely busy with the 2007 vintage :)Trev
Rosanne Quagliata
April 2, 2008 6:12am ET
Well done!! I had fun making the video!! Isabel x
Matt Scott
Honolulu HI —  April 2, 2008 1:13pm ET
That was hilarious! You should train Archie to do the same for the coffee world. Kona? Blue Mountains?A true genius!Matt
Jeffrey D Travis
April 2, 2008 2:36pm ET
James, a little off topic, but your tasting notes frequently use the term "pretty". Could not find the term in Wine Spectator glossary. What exactly do you mean in this context? Many thanks.
Corinne Conroy
April 3, 2008 6:52am ET
Great 'coup'! Good laughs...Too bad Archie did not help you grade the 2007 bordeaux!!! He would have sat in great terroirs around here too and given 95s to a lot more people!!!
James Suckling
 —  April 3, 2008 7:40am ET
He's not that clever of a dog Corinne....
Marcello Buontempo
April 3, 2008 4:14pm ET
Hello I was reading your review of the Banfi Brunello 2003 in light of the very recent news when you say well constructed do you mean maybe well assembled like Frescobaldi and Antinori .
Tony Wood
Brighton U.K. —  April 4, 2008 3:38am ET
Hi James, Could you give us a report on this years pasta crop- many thanks.
James Suckling
 —  April 4, 2008 3:53am ET
Marcello. You trying to be funny?
Charles J Stanton
Eugene, OR —  April 4, 2008 5:12pm ET
James, given the topic of your most recent blog, perhaps the next step is to teach your esteemed pooch to sniff out merlot, cabernet or syrah in Brunello.

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