I recently read about a wine competition called the SA Terroir Awards. What is meant by the term “terroir?” Does it mean soil?
Terroir is a “borrowed” word from the French and it has no direct English translation. Like “Cul de Sac”, it is now part of the English language. And it means rather more than just soil. The term encompasses all the natural features that make one particular site different from all others as far as grapevines are concerned. These include factors like rainfall, type of soil, prevailing wind direction, whether the vineyard is north or south facing and so on. If we believe wine is made in the vineyard rather than the cellar, then each vine is unique because no two terroirs can ever be exactly the same.
If, however, we believe wine is created in the cellar, then terroir may not be as important to us as some consider it to be. The character of any wine can be altered drastically in the cellar with modern technology. Many mass-produced wines are. The whole concept of “terroir” is one that is debated endlessly among winemakers. If you don’t find it interesting, just relax and enjoy the wine.