Taste of place: The terroirs of Vermont maple syrup

Robert Aldrich

Robert Aldrich

So you think you know maple syrup? It’s possible you’ve just scratched the surface of what makes this state staple so deliciously unique.

SOVAL-13.cal.high.spec_events.maple.sb.full_1302712730maple1In a recent project backed by a $45,000 grant from the U.S. Agriculture Department, a team of researchers, sugarmakers, and sensory panelists worked to describe the terroir, or taste of place, of Vermont maple syrup. Just as the world of wine has long offered its aficionados readings in terroir, it is possible, the researchers found, to gently fold back layers of place to give maple its proper due.

The end result is a unique “sensory map” that captures the sweet stuff’s subtle qualities in aroma and flavor, mouthfeel, and taste. See, it’s not just syrup; it’s Vermont maple syrup. It turns out the where informs a huge part of our enjoyment, as any proud vintner—or sugarmaker—will tell you.

This handy tool was jointly developed by the Nutrition and Food Sciences Department at University of Vermont and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture Food and Markets, including Amy Trubek, author of 2008’s The Taste of Place, A Cultural Journey Into Terroir; Montserrat Almena, a sensory scientist; Henry Marckres, the state ag agency’s Consumer Protection section chief (newly elected to the North American Maple Hall of Fame by the North American Maple Syrup Council); and Allison Hamlin.

Refer to this Taste of Place map when you head out March 25-26 for Vermont Maple Open House Weekend. Go slowly, savor the moment, and really, er, listen to what your senses report.

Amy Trubek’s The Taste of Place, A Cultural Journey Into Terroir (2008) is available in many local bookstores and at http://amzn.to/2hxFOHn.

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