Just What Is Terroir Anyway?

Terroir, prounounced “ter-wah,” is a french word often heard sprinkled throughout wine-centric conversation. But what exactly does it mean? If you’ve ever wondered about that term, the following definition provided by the website Terroir-France.com and accompanying commentary by Wine Press Northwest Columnist Ken Robertson should shed some light.

“A ‘terroir’ is a group of lands from a certain region, belonging to a specific vineyard, and sharing the same type of soil, weather conditions and winemaking savoir-faire, which contribute to give its specific personality to the wine.”

Experience Wine from the Terroir of the Olympic Peninsula

Experience Wine from the Olympic Peninsula

Robertson: In the Northwest, I think we mean a little more and a little less than that. What I hear winemakers, winery owners and wine lovers saying when they use the word is they mean the character a vineyard site gives to its wines as a result of its soil, its sun, its wind, its elevation and whatever else the land and climate may have to offer.

For a veteran wine taster with a sophisticated palate, those elements are surprisingly detectible. Most of us pick up some of the elements and may recognize a “terroir” less than consistently. What’s really important to remember is that a well-tended vineyard on a well-chosen site will consistently produce fine wine in the hands of a capable winemaker.

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