A Super Quick Primer On "Terroir"
Terroir, pronounced “tear-WAHr,” is a French word that doesn’t directly translate into English but is usually taken to mean “sense of place.”
It refers to the conditions and variables of a specific place where vines are grown — from the general characteristics of a larger region (e.g. southern Rhone) to those of a small appellation* (e.g. La Romanée in Burgundy is about the size of a city block.)
We’re talking things like
elevation and aspect of the vineyard,
and also the winemaking tradition in the region.
The idea is that these things are so specific to a place that they define the characteristics of grapes grown there (and hence the wine).
So next time a winemaker talks about wanting a wine to “express terroir,” you’ll know what they mean.
*another French word, meaning a delineated wine region, defined by a governing agency
P.S. Come taste what we mean by “terroir” at our class on pinot noir next Sunday! We’ll be doing side-by-side tastings of pinot noirs from Burgundy and Oregon, and you’ll learn how terroir makes each pinot distinct.