It’s hard to talk about wine these days without someone mentioning the word terroir. This French term does not have a simple definition, but refers to the impact that all the natural surroundings of a vineyard have on the wine that ends up in the bottle. Climate, slope, and soil all factor into giving wine a sense of place or terroir. Many winemakers strive to preserve the distinct terroir that contributes to their wines by taking a hands-off approach to preserve what the land gives them.
We challenged ten wine professionals--from writers to sommeliers to winemakers--to come up with a compact and concise definition of terroir. Here’s what they had to say:
“One can recognize terroir in the way one recognizes a person: is it their face, their voice, their way of speaking, their way of thinking, the way they smell?” --Christopher Howell, General Manager and Winemaker, Cain Vineyard and Winery, Napa, California
"Untranslatable French term that determinates a complexity of elements (geology, climate, topography and soil) that, under human being work, create adapted plants allowing to produce unique fermented food and drink products.” --Stefano Inama, Owner and Winemaker at Azienda Agricola Inama.
"Terroir is the idea of a holistic place and its translation into the medium of wine." --James Tidwell, Master Sommelier and Beverage Manager, Four Seasons Resort and Club, Dallas, TX.
“In Santorini, 400 year old non-grafted rootstock in volcanic soil provides the true definition of minerality in a wine!” --Dr. Yiannis Paraskevopoulos, Co-owner and Chief Oenologist at Gaia Wines, Santorini, Greece
“Dirt counts when it has the capacity to push through winemaking and varietal correctness in a manner that proves interesting to the hairless ape.” --Todd Hamina, Winemaker at Biggio Hamina Cellars, McMinnville, Oregon.
“Terroir is a cause and effect relationship between soil components and wine flavors for which no other explanation seems possible.” --Terry Theise, Wine Importer
“#Terroir is a meme.” --Katherine Cole, Author of Voodoo Vintners
"The combination of factors and influences pertaining to geography and climate that contribute to the uniqueness of profile of wine from any given location" --Marc Kent, Winemaker at Boekenhoutskloof, South Africa
“Terroir is the highlighting of components of a non-replicable place and how they belie a winemaker’s capacity to manipulate a wine from harvest to bottle.” --Ross Andrew Mickel, Winemaker at Ross Andrew Winery, Medina, Washington State.
And, finally, a haiku:
"That which makes a place
unique, that produces wines
How do you understand the concept of terroir in wine? Share with us below. (Feel free to use more than one sentence.)
Photo Credit: leasqueaky