Terroir

The notion of Terroir has been on my mind a lot these last few days – partly because I have been studying for the Wine Location Specialist Certificate Program from the Center of Wine Origins and partly because the first #Terroircamp was on this weekend at Toulouse..

Terroir in my opinion, encompasses the uniqueness of a place – including climate, soil structure, local culture and traditional ways of production. In some ways it’s a heritage – it is what makes a product/wine from a particular place unique and distinguishable. In Europe protective legislation (AOP) has been passed in an attempt to preserve and distinguish terroir products. In these laws guidelines on how to produce a particular wine – including which grape varieties are allowed, aging requirements, vineyard management and vinification rules… These rules are sometimes perceived as restrictive by innovative or creative wine makers who are looking for new challenges and some feel that these rules put them at a disadvantage compared to New World producers…

Whilst I can understand some of these concerns I also feel that the AOP rules are beneficial for the customer as they create a safe feeling – the customer can familiarize himself with the flavour patterns related to a particular terroir so he knows what to expect when purchasing a terroir product. This in turn, I feel, is helpful when marketing terroir products.

In the case of Champagne and Porto – the two wines/wine regions which are the basis of the Location Specialist Certificate – both wines are intrinsically entwined with their terroir. They also highly recognizable products and a consumer buying either wine knows what he’s in for.

The notion of terroir is also being used more and more in new world wine growing areas. Although not regulated by law, winemakers like to stress common characteristics which they feel are related to a specific region/terroir as the realize that it often is the recognizable characteristics that the customer is looking for.

I know that there are a lot of other notions of Terroir and I am really sorry I never made it to Toulouse yesterday as I think I would have learned a lot at the Terroir camp.. I do hope this initiative will follow the #vinocamp path and that there will be more opportunities in the future to learn more about terrior :-)

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at http://www.tastingswithatwist.wordpress.com as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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