The Truth About Terroir

wine bottles with terroir backgrounds

At every wine tasting, especially those comparing “old world” wine to “new world” wines, the inevitable question of terroir arises. Terroir is a French term that literally translated means: earth, or soil.

Terrior soilsHowever, there is no such thing as a literal translation of anything French. In a larger context, wine tasters try to define terroir as the specificity of place, which has come to include not only the soil in a region, but also the climate, the weather, the aspect of the vineyards and anything else that can possibly differentiate one piece of land from another. 
The modern winemaker has proven that grapes can be grown just about anywhere and wine of respectable quality can usually be produced from those grapes. Witness the dramatic improvement in quality across the globe as a result of better viticulture and vinification techniques. Truly, winemaking has a strong hand in defining the quality of the wine we drink.
A wines character is defined by its terroir. Character is like the value systems that we learn from our parents, unique lessons taught over a lifetime that create the individuals that we are. terroir is that set of elements that craft the character of wine, creating the truly distinguishing features that define the differences between Cabernet Sauvignon grown in Bordeaux versus Cabernet Sauvignon grown in California.


Ultimately, does terroir matter? For the novice wine drinker or collector, the answer is probably yes. Ensuring that one is drinking, or collecting, those wines perceived as “more important” because they come from a very unique “place” matters a lot to the novice and the collector.For the seasoned, well-educated wine taster, terroir is less important. A seasoned wine taster is usually looking for value and not cachet. When the two can coalesce, that’s great. The seasoned wine taster is also looking for new experiences to broaden their knowledge and palate. While the seasoned wine taster can appreciate the value of terroir, it becomes less relevant to determining what the seasoned taster is apt to drink.

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