Definition - What does Terroir mean?

Terroir, in the context of wine, represents a specificity of place and characteristics that are influenced by a particular wine region’s geography, soil conditions and climate.

Terroir is a French term derived from the word terre, meaning "land" and so it makes sense that its meaning comes from the French wine making philosophy/belief that a vineyard's environment has significant impact on style. The term can be used in the context of both large regions (for example, Bordeaux) as well as in smaller zones within a vineyard with differing micro-climates, soil types, etc.

WineFrog explains Terroir

Terroir is only one part of the basic makeup of each and every wine, though to some it is everything. The different types of grapes and production methods used in winemaking play a large part in the taste of wine, but the environmental factors of soil, climate and geography show that terroir has considerable influence, as well. Soil composition, as well as its temperature stability and drainage determines where a winemaker plants certain grapes as opposed to other areas on the in the vineyard. Climate includes the elements of the sun, rain, wind and temperature of a wine region or even just a specific vineyard. These elements influence the grape varieties a winemaker plants. Geography includes the physical features of a vineyard’s location, such as the presence of mountains, valleys or bodies of waters. These features in turn have a profound effect on soil and climate elements.

No two vineyards will have the same combination of these factors, making each bottling unique to a particular vineyard. This concept of terroir is the basis which European winemakers use to name wines after the place they come from. They believe it to be the most accurate way to name a wine, denoting where the grapes were grown to emphasize the unique attributes of the wine’s terroir. Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhone wines are well-known examples terroir’s influence.

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