Terroir (IPA|/t̪εʁwaʁ/ in French) ( _es. terruño, pago) was originally a French term in
wine, coffeeand teaused to denote the special characteristics that geographybestowed upon them. It can be very loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the manufacture of the product. "Terroir" is often italicized in English writing to show that it is a French loanword. The concept of "terroir" is at the base of the French wine" Appellation d'origine contrôlée" (AOC) system that has been model for appellationand wine laws across the globe. At its core is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that region. The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of "terroir" has been a controversial topic in the wine industry. J. Robinson (ed) "The Oxford Companion to Wine" Third Edition pg 693-695 Oxford University Press 2006 ISBN 0198609906 ]
The concept of "terroir" developed through centuries of French winemaking based on observation of what made wines from different regions, vineyards or even different sections of the same vineyard so different from each other. The French began to crystallize the concept of "terroir" as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influences and shapes the wine made from it. E. McCarthy & M. Ewing-Mulligan "French Wine for Dummies" pg 22 Wiley Publishing 2001 ISBN 0764553542 ] Long before the French, the winemaking regions of the
ancient worldalready developed a concept of different regions having the potential to create very different and distinct wines, even from the same grapes. The Ancient Greeks would stamp amphorae with the seal of the region they came from and soon different regions established reputations based on the quality of their wines. For most of its history, Burgundywas cultivated by the literate and disciplined members of the Benedictineand Cistercianorders. With vast land holdings, the monks were able to conduct large scale observation of the influences that various parcels of land had on the wine it produced. Some legends have the monks going as far as "tasting" the soil. Over time the monks compiled their observations and began to establish the boundaries of different "terroirs"-many of which still exist today as the Grand Cru vineyards of Burgundy. K. MacNeil "The Wine Bible" pg 190 Workman Publishing 2001 ISBN 1563054345 ]
Elements of "terroir"
While wine experts disagree as to the "exact" definition, a large focus is given to the natural elements that are generally considered beyond the control of humans. Some of the components often described of "terroir" include:
The interaction of climate and "terroir" is generally broken down from the
macroclimateof a larger area (For example, the Côte de Nuitsregion of Burgundy), down to the mesoclimateof a smaller subsection of that region (such as the village of Vosne-Romanée) and even to the individual microclimateof a particular vineyard or row or grapevines(like the Grand Cru vineyard of La Grande Rue). The element of soil relates both to the composition and the intrinsic nature of the vineyard soils, such as fertility, drainage and ability to retain heat. Topography refers to the natural landscape features like mountains, valleys and bodies of water, which affect how the climate interacts with the region, and includes elements of aspect and altitudeof the vineyard location.
Human controlled elements
The definition of "terroir" can be expanded to include elements that are controlled or influenced by human decisions. This can include the decision of which grape variety to plant, though whether or not that grape variety will produce quality wine is an innate element of "terroir" that may be beyond human influence. Some grape varieties thrive better in certain areas than they do in others. The winemaking decision of using wild or ambient
yeastin fermentation instead of cultured or laboratory produced yeast can be a reflection of "terroir". The use of oak is a controversial element since some will advocate that its use is beneficial in bringing out the natural "terroir" characteristics while others will argue that its use can mask the influences of the "terroir".
Influences of viticulture & winemaking
Many decisions during the growing and
winemakingprocess can either downplay or enhance the expression of "terroir" in the wine. These include decisions about pruning, irrigationand selecting time of harvest. At the winery the use of oak, cultured or ambient yeast, length of maceration and time in contact with lees, temperature during fermentation as well as processes like micro-oxygenation, chaptalization, clarificationwith fining agents, and reverse osmosisall have the potential to either downplay or emphasized some aspect derived from the "terroir". Winemakers can work between the extremes of producing wine that is "terroir"-driven and focused on purely expressing the unique aspects of a region "terroir" or winemaking that is done without any consideration given to "terroir". Furthermore, it is possible to take into consideration certain "terroir" aspects like climate and soil type when making decisions such as which grape variety to plant with the goal of simply trying to make "good wine" rather than necessarily "terroir"-driven wine.
The importances of this influences depends on the culture of a particular wine region. In France, particularly Burgundy, there is the belief that the role of winemaker is to bring out the expression of a wine's "terroir". The French word for winemaker, "vigneron" is more aptly translated to "wine-grower" rather than wine"maker". The belief that the "terroir" is the dominate influence in the wine is the basis behind French
wine labelemphasizing the region, vineyard or AOC more prominently on the label rather than the grape varietaland often more prominently than the producer. E. McCarthy & M. Ewing-Mulligan "French Wine for Dummies" pg 12-13 Wiley Publishing 2001 ISBN 0764553542 ]
The concept of "terroir" means that wines from a particular region are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated. Winemakers in Burgundy do not believe that they are producing
Pinot noirthat happens to be grown in Burgundy, but that they are producing unique Burgundian wines that happen to be made from Pinot noir. Appellation systems, such as the French AOC systems, have developed around the concepts of "uniques wines from a unique area". These systems have also developed into Protected designation of originacross the European Unionso that, for example, winemakers from outside a region like Tuscany can not produced a Sangiovesewine and call it a Chianti. While the wine maybe made from the same clonal variety of Sangiovese, in the same soil composition as what is found in the Chianti region with winemakers imitating the Tuscan method of production, there is a base assumption that the two wines will be intrinsically different due to the unreplicable elements of "terroir". The names of these European wine regions are protected so that wines from different regions and different "terroir" are not being confused with wines from that particular region-i.e. A Spanish or Australian "chianti". In the United States there is some confusion over the use of semi-genericnames like Champagne and Port but in recent years there has been more effort by the American wine industry to recognize the unique association of place names with the wines produced from those place, such as the 2005 Napa Declaration on Placeagreement. While appellation systems and the protected designations of origin can be a way of protecting "unique "terroir", the commercial importance of terroir has been a much debated topic in the wine industry.
The importance of "terroir", particularly to what extent it should influence the marketplace and pricing, is very much open to debate. Wine critics question the value of a Pinot noir wine proceeding from a Burgundy Grand Cru vineyard, relative to a wine produced from the "lesser "terroir" of a "Premier Cru" vineyard, and whether it merits the higher price. These doubts also arise when the quality of winemaking and other human influences are taken into account, which may be of a higher standard with the "lesser" "premier cru". From a broader perspective, critics question the difference between New World and
Old Worldwine and whether modern winemaking techniques – like significant oak influences, over-ripened fruit, cultured yeast, micro-oxygenation, color pigment additives, etc – obscure or even eliminate the influence of "terroir" in making different regions unique and distinct from each other. Critics often point to the "cookie-cutter" effect on mass-produced wines made from popular varietals like Chardonnay, which may have their "terroir" characteristics hidden through the use of invasive and intensive winemaking. A heavily-oaked, over-ripe Chardonnay from California can taste very similar to the same style of wine from Chile, South Africa, Italy or Australia. The marketability of wines from different regions and producers is impacted by the importance accorded to "terroir", both by the wine industry and consumer wine markets, with some producers downplaying "terroir" and its impact on their wines.
The concept of "terroir" has been discussed in several films and television shows.
Jonathan Nossiter's 2004 documentary " Mondovino" explores the globalization of the wine business, and features interviews with a number of small producers, mostly French, who expound on the concept of "terroir". In the 2006 BBCseries Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure, one episode is almost entirely devoted to Oz Clarketeaching James Maythe concept of "terroir". At the end of the episode, James successfully identifies three wines, placing them in the correct order on the basis of the quality of "terroir" they come from. Les Blankand Gina Leibrecht's 2007 documentary " All In This Tea" explores the importance of "terroir" and organic growing methods in both the quality and future sustainability of the Chinese teamarket. Terroir is also a frequent topic of discussion in the Japanese wine comic Les Gouttes de Dieu. The romantic comedy French Kiss also makes reference to terroir: Kevin Kline's character Luc introduces Kate - played by Meg Ryan- to the flavours and scents that can be found in the wine that mirror those found in the local terrain.
*Jacques Fanet "Great Wine Terroirs" University of California Press 2004 ISBN 0520238583
*Thomas J. Rice, Ph.D. and Tracy G. Cervellone, C.W.E. "Paso Robles: An American Terroir" Published by the authors. 2007. http://www.pasoterroir.com/ ISBN 978-0-9799406-1-3.
*Brian J. Sommers "The Geography of Wine: How Landscapes, Cultures, Terroir, and the Weather Make a Good Drop" Plume Publishing 2008 ISBN 0452288908
*Olivier Torres "The Wine Wars: The Mondavi Affair, Globalization and Terroir" Palgrave Macmillan Publishing 2006 ISBN 0230002102
*James E. Wilson "Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines" University of California Press 1999 ISBN 0520219368
* [http://www.morethanorganic.com/french-wine-terroir "Terroir" at morethanorganic.com]
* [http://www.wineanorak.com/terroir2.htm "Terroir revisited: towards a working definition" at wineanorak.com]
* [http://tablascreek.typepad.com/tablas/2008/10/terroir-then-an.html "Terroir, Then and Now" by Robert Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard]
* Terroir-France " [http://www.terroir-france.com/theclub/meaning.htm What does terroir mean ?] ".
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TERROIR — Territoire présentant certains caractères qui le distinguent du point de vue agronomique des territoires voisins (exemple: en montagne, les terroirs de vallée, les terroirs de versants), le terroir est aussi l’espace soumis à certaines techniques … Encyclopédie Universelle
Terroir — (franz.: terroir m. = Gegend) ist ein ursprünglich aus Frankreich stammender Begriff aus dem Agrarbereich, von dem es keine eindeutige deutsche Übersetzung des dahinter stehenden Grundgedankens gibt. Je nach Interpretation beschreibt Terroir… … Deutsch Wikipedia
terroir — Terroir. s. m. Terre considerée par rapport à l agriculture. Terroir fertile. bon terroir. mauvais terroir. terroir gras. terroir sec. terroir humide. terroir maigre. terroir aride, pierreux, sablonneux. terroir ingrat. le terroir de la Beausse… … Dictionnaire de l'Académie française
Terroir — es un término de origen francés proveniente del latín terratorium. Su uso se ha extendido a otras lenguas para designar a una extensión geográfica bien delimitada y homogénea (no necesariamente correspondiente a alguna división política) que… … Wikipedia Español
terroir — /ter wärˈ/ (French) noun The distinctive quality imparted to a wine by the climate and soil in which its grapes are grown … Useful english dictionary
TERROIR — s. m. Terre considérée par rapport à l agriculture. Terroir fertile. Bon terroir. Mauvais terroir. Terroir gras. Terroir sec. Terroir humide. Terroir aride, pierreux, sablonneux. Terroir ingrat. Le terroir de la Beauce est bon pour les blés. Le… … Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 7eme edition (1835)
TERROIR — n. m. Terre considérée par rapport à la culture. Terroir fertile, gras. Terroir sec, humide. Terroir aride, ingrat. Terroir pierreux, sablonneux. Le terroir de la Beauce est bon pour les blés. Le terroir de la Bourgogne est bon pour les vins. Ce… … Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 8eme edition (1935)
terroir — (tè roir) s. m. 1° Terrein considéré par rapport à l agriculture. • C est une vérité qui ne peut être contestée que le meilleur terroir ne diffère en rien du mauvais s il n est cultivé, VAUBAN Dîme, p. 28. Ce vin sent le terroir, il a un… … Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré
Terroir — Un terroir désigne une aire géographique considérée comme homogène à travers les ressources et productions qu il est susceptible d’apporter, notamment mais pas uniquement par sa spécialisation agricole. Sommaire 1 Une terre et des hommes 2 Une… … Wikipédia en Français
terroir — Le terroir ou territoire d une ville, Ager. Le sol et le terroir, Terrenum. Bon terroir, Bona terra. Le principal terroir pour le bled, c est, etc. Caput rei frumentariae in Sicilia, Ager Leontinus. Ils paissent en toute sorte de terroir, Omni… … Thresor de la langue françoyse