Is It Possible to Taste Terroir?

Is It Possible To Taste Terroir?

From light and fruity to dark and full-bodied, wine comes in a wide selection of varietals to choose from. While each wine varietal embodies the unique properties of the land where their grapes were grown, it is also common for two wines of the same varietal, made in the same year and in the same region to taste completely different. But why?

Truth be told, the cause of these differences can be the result of many different factors including farming choices, winemaking choices and of course, terroir.

What Does Terroir Mean?

Referring to the environmental factors that influence a wine’s character, including the wind, rainfall, soil, sunshine, and temperature, the term was first tossed around in the 17th Century thanks to Dr. Denis Morelot, a wealthy landowner in Burgandy. Dr. Morelot did not understand how all the wines in Burgandy could taste so different despite being cultivated in essentially the same way.  After much consideration, Morelot decided the difference in quality and taste must be a result of the area’s unique geology and geography.

It was from that point forward that vineyards across France and the Old World were labeled with legal appellations, a coding system that marked certain areas for quality and left others out in the economic cold linking wine quality to the quality of its vineyard of origin forever.

What Factors Contribute To A Wine’s Terroir?

A wine’s terroir comes down to a mix of nature and nurture or a conglomeration of different elements that influence how a grape grows on the vine. Here is a breakdown of all that terroir encompasses:

Altitude and Terrain- From the vineyard’s elevation to its natural surrounding fauna and other geological features ( by a body of water or on a mountain top) all these factors influence how grapes grow,  which in turn affects the terroirs of the wine.

Climate –The climate surrounding the vineyard influences how much sunlight and precipitation the grapevine receives thus affecting how much the vine can produce.

Soil-Whether the soil is made from clay or rock or something in between, the soil impacts how the roots of the vine grow and how much access the grapes have to water and minerals.  

Human influence-This is perhaps one of the most important factors regarding how a wine is made. While some winemakers follow the traditional methods to make wine, others are just finding their own unique methods. Regardless, this human influence affects how a grapevine is cultivated.

So the next time you are out wine tasting, take a moment to learn more about the wine itself, how it is made, where the grapes were grown, etc.  Getting more insight into the background of the wine will open your mind and your taste buds to something you may have never noticed before.