What is terrior all about?
We’ve all heard this word numerous times I’m sure. And the answer is actually quite simple. Terrior is a word that is used to resemble the character of the soil in which the wine grapes have grown.
Some wines varieties’ thrive in certain environments. And wine growers must choose what variety to plant (so humans make a difference too).
It is French for “Sense of place”. So when someone sips a wine and says this wine exhibits beautiful terrior. It means the wine tastes like the region in which is is grown. If you know a thing or two about region and tatse profiles or grapes that grow there – It should taste how you would expect when you bought it.
An example of terrior is a Cabernet from the Coonawarra in South Australia, resembling a dark rich flavour, with uncanny flavours of mint and eucalyptus. This is due to the limestone soil and earth in which win is growth.
A Sonoma cabernet on the other hand, should resemble fruit-driven cassis, medium- body and smoothness.
The concept dates back to the ancient world where the ancient Greeks had a concept, where growing wines in distinct regions had a certain ‘potential’ to produce certain varieties. The ancient Greeks would stamp an amphorae with a seal of the region it came from. Similar to how the Italians stamp for DOCG wines today.
These wines naturally developed a reputation based on high quality wines.
For hundreds of years; literate and disciplined members of the Benedictine and Cistercian orders in France cultivated grapes in much of Burgundy. And due to the vast landholdings, monks conducted large scale observation of the grapes. The monks began to establish boundaries for different terriors – many of which still exist today as the Grand Cru vineyards or Burgundy.
This later developed in the the crystallized concept of ‘terrior’ as a way of describing the unique aspects of a region or place that influences the taste and shape of the wine.
In vineyards, the most common soil components are limestone, clay, sand and silt. Light soils produce wines with a more complex aromatic mix and with a shorter maturity time. Each soil component will have different impact on wine.
Most importantly, without good soil, a winemaker cannot produce a good wine. That’s why the best wines in the world come from very specific terroirs. Just like how a superb vine in your garden will grow to its greatest potential with the best soil from the Homes and Gardens store. Winemakers stive to maintain healthy quality soil – so that they can produce the very best wine the soil has to offer!