Posted by Paul Bassett on

with Michaël Engelmann, MS and Paul Bassett, World Barista Champion

There are many similar social and cultural aspects of drinking coffee and wine. They both play an important part in our everyday lives and are consumed with the aim of bringing enjoyment. They possess sensory elements of aroma, taste and texture and both cause certain physiological and psychological effects. Being agricultural products, the sensory characteristics of the specific coffee or wine varietal is directly influenced by the terroir of the area in which it’s grown. These are known as primary characteristics. The stages that take place after harvesting, such as processing and the application of oak or roast, introduce secondary characteristics that also influence the final cup profile. There are a number of variables that influence coffee and wine and we’ll be discussing the similarities between some of these variables throughout this piece. It’s time to see just how close coffee and wine really are.


Definition: The combination of factors, including soil, climate and environment that give wine grapes and coffee beans their distinctive characteristics.   


Altitude is one of the factors that shapes a coffee’s flavour profile. Coffee grown at higher elevations has a longer maturation period as a result of the lower average temperatures. This tends to produce a denser bean with greater flavour complexity and higher levels of acidity. On the contrary, coffees grown at lower elevations are subject to higher average temperatures. This causes coffee to ripen more quickly, resulting in lower levels of acidity and less pronounced flavour. Volcanic soil, renowned for its fertile, nutrient and sulphur-rich make-up, contributes to greater complexity and flavour in the cup.


As with coffee, one of the main impacts of higher altitude vineyards is that temperatures get lower the higher the altitude gets. This tends to result in longer growing seasons and a major difference between the day and nighttime temperatures. Generally, the sun is also more intense. All of this can result in richer, more intense and concentrated wines. Volcanic soils retain water and deliver it to the vines roots very slowly, which is important for the vine to survive. The vineyards are rich in minerals and wines grown on volcanic soils are often found to be more perfumed, aromatic, and expressive.


Coffee and wine varietals vary in terms of their body, aroma, flavour complexity and acidity. The terroir of the region they are grown in impacts greatly on their intrinsic characteristics.


For example: Geisha: displays florals, tea-like characteristics, higher acidity, low to medium body. Bourbon: displays sweetness, balance, medium to full body, mild acidity. These characteristics are consistent from one micro-climate to another, but can be accentuated by the specific terroir in which the coffee is grown. For example, Bourbons grown in Brazil may have less acidity than those grown in the higher coffee regions of Guatemala.


Viognier: possesses low to medium acidity and offers a fruit basket of perfume. Chenin Blanc: displays higher levels of acidity and expresses minerality and earthiness. Soil, altitude and temperature impact greatly on the final profile of the wine in the glass. For example, Pinot Noir grown in Australia will produce a vastly different profile to Pinot Noir grown in France, as a result of the differing terroirs.


Coffee and wine can be sourced from a single vineyard or estate or they can be made with a blend selected from a variety of geographic areas.


The beauty of micro-lot coffee is that it expresses the unique combination of a specific variety grown in a specific terroir. The identity of the coffee is shaped by that one place.Coffees can also be blended together to create a specific profile. Depending on the desired style, the blend could result in a low acid, body-driven coffee or a higher acid, more delicate expression.


Many of the world’s most famous wines are produced from a single vineyard. This means the vineyard has been identified as superior in regards to the combination of elements at the site. In Barolo, iconic producer Bartolo Mascarello refused to follow the trend of producing Single Cru wines. He argued that his blended wine made a better, more complete wine because “the whole is better than any one of the parts.” *Join us next week for Part 2, as we continue to examine the similarities between the world’s most popular beverages