By Tamra Bolton
Whenever you are around a group of wine enthusiasts, the term “terroir” eventually comes up in the conversation. What exactly is terroir? It is a loosely translated French term meaning “sense of place” and the effect it has on wine. The soil, atmosphere, environment, sunlight and rain patterns, etc. all affect the way a wine will taste. The same vine, grown in several different locations will have its own unique characteristics and flavors, based on the terroir. This is true of just about any crop, even onions. Those grown in one part of our state taste sweet and mild, while the same onion grown in another area will make you wince and weep. All crops, whether they are grapes, corn, oranges, etc. are affected by the soil, weather and location, but wine growers seem to take the term more seriously.
Many times the comparison of “old world” (European) wines and “new world” (everything else!) wines is when the term terroir enters the conversation. Most old world vineyards are relatively small when compared to new world vineyards, so the terroir is more easily compared in the old world wines, than in the new world wines. For example, the region of Bordeaux in France is about 250 square miles and has about 6 different soil types, so the variations in the wine produced is small compared to the Barossa Valley in Australia that encompasses only a little over 100 square miles, but has about 30 different soil types!
So, whether you feel that terroir is important enough to consider when making your wine choices…the main thing is to choose a wine you enjoy. Try different wines from a particular region and develop your palate. Broaden your knowledge of wines in general. Being well-versed in “wine language” is not really necessary to enjoy the experience, but it can make you feel a part of the conversation when these terms are introduced. Cheers!