Artisan Wine Review
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What is Terroir?


The word is French for “Soil”

In Wine-Speak:

The phrase goût de terroir (goo-duh ter-wahr) or, taste of the soil is used to indicate that a wine exhibits a distinctive sense of place.

Geographic Factors of Vineyard Terroir:

  • Soil Type(s)
  • Elevation
  • Degree of Slope
  • Position Relative to Sun
  • Drainage Ability
  • Local Climate


Other Influential Factors:

Age of Vines – As vines get older their roots tend to grow deeper, in some cases they go down almost 30 feet below the surface in an effort to find water.   As rainwater and snow-melt filter their way down through the different sub-soils, they carry off some of the minerals that were slowly dissolved away from each layer.   Eventually, the rootstocks will grow long enough to capture some of that deep water and transport its fingerprint of unique organic characteristics up to the growing fruit.

Indigenous Plants and Animals – Over the course of many millennia the remains of plants, animals and trees decay and ultimately becomes the compost which seasons the native soil.   A vineyard recycles those “local flavors” by drinking up some of the dissolved organic compounds from the water table below and infusing trace amounts of those qualities back into its grapesThis explains why the goût de terroir of regional wines tends to work so well with the traditional foods of the same region.

Why is Terroir Important?

There are two very different schools of thought on this subject.

One group falls in the food is wine, wine is food school of thought.   If, for example, a meal featured steamed shellfish, then sipping a wine from a coastal region whose goût de terroir adds a subtle hint of brininess would be perfection in a glass.

On the other hand, the second group tends to think of wine primarily as a cocktail and so aromatic and taste individuality is not considered to be as important to the end user as is the overall smoothness and fruitiness of the wine.

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