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Does Terroir exist? And if so, does it matter?

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Squatch Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-07-05 12:39 PM
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Does Terroir exist? And if so, does it matter?
Terroir is a French term in wine appreciation used to denote the special characteristics of geography that give a wine its individuality. It can be loosely translated as "a sense of place" which is embodied in the qualities of a wine, the sum of the effects that the environment has on the vines which produce a particular wine.

Terroir is distinct from the characteristics imparted by the grape variety, by the vintage and by production methods (vinification), and is the product of a range of local influences that are transmitted into the character of the wine.

The components of terroir may include:

mesoclimate
soil type - Is it rich in nutrients or barren, is it primarily chalk or clay?
geology - Good drainage or poor, is the bedrock shallow or deep?
aspect - Do the grapes get lots of sun due to being on a south-facing, steeply sloped site?
altitude - higher altitude means the same amount of sun but lower temperatures
patterns of cultivation
However, the meaning of terroir goes beyond the geography terroir is pre-eminently a concept of quality in wine-making. Oenophiles use the concept of terroir to refer to wines that are distinctive and unique to their place of origin. However, the mere existence of terroir, the role that terroir plays in making a wine "good" are both questions that are controversial.

The concept of terroir means that wines from that terroir are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated. For the French, who claim to be home to many of the finest terroirs in the world, this is simultaneously self-evident and also extremely convenient. Producers in Burgundy are emphatically not producing pinot noir that happens to be grown in Burgundy, they are producing the unique wines of Burgundy, that happen to be made from pinot noir. In fact, until the early 2000s, it was illegal to put "pinot noir" or "chardonnay" on the front of a Burgundian label. Judging by its prominence on French wine labels, the place of production is important, much more so than the grape variety or even in the producer.

The opposite argument comes from those who do not believe in the concept of terroir. They agree that many aspects of terroir are important to wine quality, such as drainage, aspect, etc., but dispute that the combination creates something truly unique and better.

In the middle are those who agree that terroir causes wines to be different, but believe it has no impact on the overall quality of the wine. In their thinking, a Volnay can be a great wine even if it doesn't taste much like other Volnays.
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SOteric Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Thu Jul-07-05 12:43 PM
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1. I believe it does.
I can tell the difference between a California Vognier and a French Vognier, even when they've been made with grapes from the same original derivation in pretty much the same articulation.

There's something distinctively ashy in Italian wines from volcanic regions (not unpleasantly so, but evident). There's a deep 'loamy' quality to wines from the Alsace.
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