Terroir Defined.

Posted on by Kris

Wife - "Why the bloody hell did you just track mud through the house?" Husband -"It's not mud, IT'S TERROIR!!!"I always like to get the pronunciation of a word out of the way before we move on with the rest of the article: Terroir [ter-whah]

Very loosely translated from French (as no-one can agree on an exact definition, and there is no English equivalent), terroir means "a sense of place". It’s applied in the “wine world” to collectively reference the weather, the soil, sunlight hours, the slope of the hill where vines are planted, the macro climate of the region as a whole, right down to the meso-climate of the row of grapes and their individual canopies. Essentially, everything environmentally that affects a wine.

To understand terroir is to understand the idea that all of these outside factors combined are going to have a profound effect on the taste of the wine, and that there’s no possible way that the wines from a particular region can be duplicated. This, of course, based on the fact that every vineyard in the world has its own individual “terroir”.

So the question is, does each parcel of land, within each vineyard, within each region, within each country, really produce wines that taste completely unique from other surrounding vineyards?

The Mosel region of Germany : it's all kinds of steep, and there's terroir all over the place!!!Potentially, yes. Realistically, no.
The concept of terroir depends on the winemaker and the taste profile they’re looking to achieve. European winemakers take the aspect of terroir very seriously; for example, wine from a Grand Cru vineyard in Burgundy will cost a ridiculous amount more than a Premier Cru vineyard, even though the two plots of land can be literally feet away from each other, and made by the same winemaker. But, maybe the Grand Cru site has better drainage, more pronounced minerality in the soil, or gains that extra little touch of sunlight every day because of the slope of the hill etc.

Terroir goes completely out the window if the winemaker applies a "heavy hand", as New World producers frequently get accused of i.e. over-use of oak, grapes being heavily ripened before harvest; and if certain additives/fermentation techniques are applied, a Chardonnay from Australia, will taste like one from Chile, will taste like one from California, will taste like one from France…

The most important principle to be remembered with terroir is that a well-cared for vineyard on a well-selected site will consistently produce unique tasting fine wine in the hands of a capable winemaker.

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