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Are You a Terroiriste?

The word terroir sounds like a less savory term we are all too familiar with and hear far too much about today, but happily terroir shares no affinity with the English word that so closely resembles it.  So, what is terroir precisely?  Terroir is a French word, which means literally soil or ground.  However, when used in connection to wine or viticulture, terroir refers to the specific and often unique soil in which individual vines grow, but that is not all.  Terroir, also, encompasses the climate, altitude, and the precise position of the vines in a vineyard.  In essence, terroir includes the entire environment of a vineyard or even the entire surroundings and upbringing of an individual plot within a vineyard because terroir can vary considerably from one part of a vineyard to the next.  Since English and other languages, too, lack a single word to convey as much meaning as the French word terroir, the term has become widely adapted internationally and is now a generally accepted term in English, too, especially in the wine trade and increasingly among critics and consumers alike.

So, to answer the question, yes I am a terroiriste.  However, I lend equal credence to the skills and multifarious choices every winemaker must make because no matter how fine the terroir, good winemaking matters, a lot.


A Votre Santé!


Posted in Interesting Wine Info, Wine Education

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About the Author

Don Lahey's career in the wine industry spans over 30 years as an importer, author, consultant, and educator. He leads the tasting panel that selects our wines each month.

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The International Wine of the Month Club