"Terroir" is a French term which, loosely translated, means "a sense of place." It is used to refer to products (i.e. cheese, meat and, of course, wine) that reflect or represent qualities unique to a specific geographic location. With respect to wine, terroir refers to the intersection of grape variety, soil type, climate and winemaking technique and how these factors come together to create a wine that cannot be produced anywhere else in the world.
The art of blind tasting is based on the concept that a wine can look, taste and smell a certain way depending on where it was produced. So, if a wine is said to express terroir, the wine is believed to represent where it comes from and is therefore considered a "wine of place."
It is important to note the concept of terroir has special significance in Old World wine regions (i.e. France, Italy, Spain) where wine has been produced since approximately the fourth century. Today, winemakers in these storied regions are tasked with upholding and preserving the vinous traditions of their ancestors by relying on their wisdom, keen observations and tried and true techniques which have been passed down from generation to generation.
New World wine regions (i.e. United States, South America, Australia), on the other hand, have only been making wine since approximately the sixteenth century, often using vine cuttings and winemaking techniques imported from the Old World. By simple virtue of time, New World wine regions don't yet have the experience with and knowledge of their geography that Old World regions do. Today, the evolution of terroir in the New World continues to be an exciting and dynamic process.
I hope you enjoyed this Wine Word of the Week and learning more about the fascinating concept of terroir. And if you would like to suggest a wine-related term for Wine Word of the Week, please leave it in the comment section below.