The personal website of

Master of Wine

Roger C. Bohmrich

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Terroir

I have been intrigued with and challenged by the meaning of "terroir" for nearly as long as I have been interested in wine itself. There is no other term that is as widely used by winegrowers and wine journalists around the world; paradoxically, given the competing definitions of the word and the ongoing dialogue with respect to its significance. Does terroir refer simply to the natural environmental conditions, or does it implicitly take in the contributions of human beings, without whom wine would not exist? Is it, in other words, simply the wine world's version of the nature vs. nurture debate? To address these and other questions about terroir, I have been stimulated to write several articles over the years that are cited on this page.

"On the simplest level, terroir refers to the natural environmental parameters that define the agricultural potential of a zone or unit of land, with the implication that these conditions cannot be easily modified by human intervention. Yet, terroir can come to life and be expressed in a finished product only through the management provided by winegrowers and winemakers. Site and process are thus symbiotically intertwined, yet separate."

 

Quotation from my entry for The Business of Wine - An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2009)

You may also be interested in other entries I contributed for "France" and "Burgundy."

 

 

In the vines of Fuissé (Burgundy)

Is the character of a wine determined in the vineyard or the cellar -

or is the outcome an indecipherable fusion of the two?

"The search for the factors accounting for the taste characteristics of wine, and particularly for the subtle yet observable differences between wines of the same region and commune, produced with essentially the same grape varieties and techniques, is one of the most intriguing unsolved mysteries in the world of wine."

 

Quotation from my article entitled Terroir: Competing Perspectives on the Roles of Soil, Climate and People (Journal of Wine Research, 1996, Vol. 7, No. 1, p 44) which can be obtained from the publisher by typing "tandfonline.com/bohmrich/terroir" into your browser.

"Surely one must be able to taste the terroir if it truly exists, and indeed some may be able to, both in a global and local context. A good, reasonably informed taster can identify the difference that climate alone can bring to wine of the same grape variety.

Think of Chablis as compared to Upper Hunter Chardonnay to see how cool compares with hotter origins, or Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma contrasted with Sancerre. This is the taste of terroir in a rather obvious way. More skilled and experienced tasters may detect differences that stem from one vineyard site compared to another nearby. This lesson can be learned by tasting the new vintage from barrel from sites such as Combettes, Champ Gain and Pucelles in the same grower's cellar in Puligny-Montrachet; or by experiencing Riesling from Rangen de Thann, Brand and Herrenweg with a vintner in Alsace. We sense that there are unique attributes that must originate with the vineyard because the handling, vinification and maturation are the same.

Yet, we have to say that tasting is inherently fallible unless performed under the strictest conditions with qualified tasters who have been carefully screened. Otherwise, much of our judgment remains intuitive and subjective, and prone to suggestion and expectation. We may identify differences in aroma, concentration or acidity, but do we know with scientific certitude whether these come about because of soil and subsoil, or age of vines, clones, rootstocks or other factors?"

A quotation from my article:

 The Next Chapter in the Terroir Debate 

(Wine Business Monthly, Jan. 2006).

 The full article together with original graphics can be viewed by searching with my name and the title at winebusiness.com