Terroir - From Land to the Sky
Terroir is unsurprising, a French term. It emerged from Burgundy during the region's glorious period of winemaking in the 14th Century. This term can neither be precisely translated into English nor be measured. Simply put, it includes all the natural factors that impose direct and indirect influences on vines and grapes (and therefore wines!) These factors include soil type (and its many layers deep underneath the ground), vineyard topography and climate.
Wine is given a sense of place by Terroir because all wines come from different vineyards that are unique in their own ways – no two places are the same in this world!
Terroir is definitely more than influential on both style and quality of wines produced, although its degree of impact has been in constant debate. It interrelates with the grape varieties grown at the region. Individual varieties and clones have their own personalities and possess different responses toward climate and soil types. For example, a warmer climate best suitable for making Shiraz can hardly be ideal for planting great Pinot Noir. In fact, the climate would be too warm and would result in rapid acid reduction and subsequently fruit flavour loss. All meteorological aspects of terroir originate from the sun. We humans cannot survive without sunlight and vines cannot either! Sunlight is the essential source of heat and energy for vine growth. Prior to winemaking applications, the average temperature during the ripening season affects the potential wine style the most.
The different terroirs of the regions give wines unique characteristics that become clues for the wines' region of origin. Experienced wine drinkers can identify the style and sense of place of the wines tasted. However, in modern wine production, styles have become very flexible due to various techniques producers apply to the wines, and characteristics can be copied and mimicked! Wine identification becomes a very challenging task, and although there is absolutely no need to feel obliged in correctly identifying wine and its region, one should always appreciate the different styles of wines – you are drinking a glass of terroir, after all.