Does Grade A Fancy from Hinesburg taste different than the same variety when it comes from Marshfield? The idea may sound like a hokey marketing ploy, but maple experts believe it's true. What accounts for the distinction? They attribute it to "terroir" - a term that stems from the French word for soil. The essential idea is that territory affects tastes.
Originally, people restricted the term to discussions involving wine and coffee, but these days it gets applied to almost any food's flavor - chocolate, cheese, tea and now maple syrup are just a few of the products known to be influenced by the earth, sun and rain.
To lend credence to this idea, Jeffrey S. Munroe, who teaches geology at Middlebury College, and Middlebury student Lee B. Corbett recently analyzed the mineral composition of sap and syrup from trees grown in different types of soil. Certain minerals were more concentrated in sap trees growing over limestone rather than over schist. An online abstract of the project concludes that bedrock type appears to contribute to "the diversity and uniqueness of maple syrup produced in different areas."
Professor Munroe will be among the guest speakers at "Maples in the Landscape: the Terroir of Maple Syrup," which takes place at the Shelburne Farms on October 17. Chef Rick Gencarelli of the Inn at Shelburne Farms will prepare a maple-accented dinner, with a panel discussion to follow. Other local experts on the program include Middlebury prof John Elder, the University of Vermont's Amy Trubeck and Montse Almena, UVM research associate.
For more info or to make a reservation, call 985-8686, ext. 41.