What is Terroir?

Terroir gives wine a sense of place.  When the land, animals, and natural elements come together, the wine that is produced has a presence of the land embedded in its core.

In Europe, the region takes precedence over the grape varietal.  Why?  Because for so many years the land has been known to produce wines that have a sense of region.  Sommeliers (advanced wine experts), have to take extensive tests that require them to not only identify the grapes varietals within a wine, but in many cases region where the wine came from.  Many wines have such a strong connection to the land that experts can actually taste these attributes in a wine.

We are experiencing a movement that takes us on a journey back to our roots and a time when wine had a sense of place, otherwise know as “terroir”.  The question is, can you taste the terroir?

Realistically, in the newer wine regions of the world you may have a harder time.  Partly because the more youthful regions have not had enough time to build a reputation of ‘place’ and partially because many newer regions have been clouded by the commercial wine methods for so long that getting the expression of the land may take a while to determine.  This does not mean that the terroir is not there, it only means it harder to detect a specific region.  But tasting the expressions of the region is not as important as tasting the earth within the wine. Regions like France and Italy were not built overnight, so we will have to be patient.

The important thing to remember is that the less manipulation to the grapes and winemaking process, the more expression of terroir will come through. For many reasons, it is highly unlikely that you would be given the opportunity to sip of a wine that has been over processes and filled with chemicals vs. a natural wine from the same land.  But if give the chance I am confident you may be able to tell a difference.  Whether you like the difference is subjective, but it is worth training your palate and experiencing the world of natual wines.

To learn more about this subject, take a look at clips from the documentary “Wine from Here”.