, and influence of the nearby Mosel river
distinguish the terroir of this German wine region.]]
(, ; from ''terre'', "land") is a French term used to describe the environmental factors that affect a crop's phenotype
, including unique environment contexts, farming practices and a crop's specific growth habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character.
Some artisanal crops for which terroir is studied include wine, cider, coffee
, tobacco, chocolate, chili pepper
s, hops, agave
(for making tequila and mezcal), tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, tea, and cannabis
Terroir is the basis of the French wine ''appellation d'origine contrôlée
'' (AOC) system, which is a model for wine appellation
and regulation in France and around the world. The AOC system presumes that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that growing site (the plants' habitat). The extent of terroir's significance is debated in the wine industry.
Over the centuries, French winemakers developed the concept of terroir by observing the differences in wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard. The French began to crystallize the concept of terroir as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influence and shape the wine made from it.
Long before the French, the wine-making regions of the ancient world
had already developed a concept of different regions having the potential to produce very different and distinct wines, even from the same grapes. The Ancient Greeks
would stamp amphora
e with the seal of the region they came from, and soon different regions established reputations based on the quality of their wines. For centuries, literate and disciplined members of the Benedictine
orders cultivated grapes in much of Burgundy
. With vast landholdings, the monks could conduct large-scale observation of the influences that various parcels of land had on the wine it produced.
Some legends have the monks going as far as tasting the soil. Over time the monks compiled their observations and began to establish the boundaries of different ''terroirs'' - many of which still exist today as the Grand Cru vineyards
left|thumb|While the concept of terroir is not specific to Burgundy, the examples of Burgundy wine from places like the Chablis
''premier cru'' Fourchaume are terroir-driven.
While wine experts disagree about the exact definition, particular consideration is given to the natural elements that are beyond the control of humans. Mark A. Matthews, a professor of viticulture and plant physiology at University of California, Davis
, has described the common conception of terroir as a myth. While Matthews agrees local characteristics can have an effect on plant growth and the wines made from particular grapes, he points out that the term is imprecisely defined, and puts forward that the concept of terroir is accepted primarily based on traditional belief
, and is not backed by rigorous data or research.
Components often described as aspects of terroir include:
* Soil type
* Other organisms growing in, on, and around the vine plots
The interaction of climate and terroir is generally broken down from the macroclimate
of a larger area (For example, the Côte de Nuits
region of Burgundy
), down to the mesoclimate
of a smaller subsection of that region (such as the village of Vosne-Romanée
) and even to the individual microclimate
of a particular vineyard or row of grapevines
(like the Grand Cru
vineyard of La Grande Rue
). The element of soil relates both to the composition and the intrinsic nature of the vineyard soils
, such as fertility, drainage and ability to retain heat.
Geomorphology refers to natural landscape features like mountains
s and bodies of water
, which affect how the climate interacts with the region, and includes the elements of aspect
of the vineyard location.
Other organisms growing in, on, and around the vine plots refers to the region specific fauna
, and microflora
present in the vineyards. The microbial populations in vineyards have been described as being a quantifiable aspect of the overall ''terroir.''
Human controlled elements
The definition of terroir can be expanded to include elements that are controlled or influenced by humans. This can include the decision of which grape variety to plant, though whether or not that grape variety will produce quality wine is an innate element of terroir that may be beyond human influence. Some grape varieties
thrive better in certain areas than in others. The winemaking decision of using wild or ambient yeast
instead of cultured or laboratory produced yeast can be a reflection of terroir. The use of oak
is a controversial element since some will advocate that its use is beneficial in bringing out the natural terroir characteristics while others will argue that its use can mask the influences of the terroir.
Vineyard management (e.g. growing grapes organically
over a more conventional method of farming) can also be seen as a human controlled aspect of terroir.
Influences of viticulture and winemaking
Many decisions during the growing
process can either lessen or increase the expression of terroir in the wine. These include decisions about pruning
and selecting time of harvest
. At the winery, the use of oak
, cultured or ambient yeast, length of maceration
and time in contact with lees
, temperature during fermentation
, and processes like micro-oxygenation
with fining agents
, and reverse osmosis
all have the potential to either reduce or emphasize some aspect derived from the terroir. Winemakers can work between the extremes of producing wine that is terroir-driven and focused on purely expressing the unique aspects of a region's terroir, or winemaking that is done without any consideration given to terroir. Furthermore, aspects of terroir such as climate and soil type may be considered when deciding such things as which grape variety to plant if the goal is to make good wine rather than terroir-driven wine.
The importance of these influences depends on the culture of a particular wine region. In France, particularly Burgundy, there is the belief that the role of a winemaker is to bring out the expression of a wine's terroir. The French word for "winemaker," ''vigneron
'', is more aptly translated as "wine-grower" rather than "winemaker". The belief that the terroir is the dominant influence in the wine is the basis behind French wine labels emphasizing the region, vineyard, or AOC more prominently than the varietal
of grape, and often more prominently than the producer.
In other drinks
The concept of terroir exists in other drinks, notably in tea (Wuyi rock-essence tea
being a notable example) and Cognac
where the chalky soil, climate and distance from the ocean are all factors influencing the product. Producers of whiskey
, and vodka
use terroir elements in their production process, including wood flavors derived from barrel aging
In artisan cheese
The tenet of terroir has also been applied to the production of artisan cheese
, and French authorities have fought to balance traditional cheesemakers terroir cheeses concerns with those of major industrialists.
The influence of terroir means that wines from a particular region are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside that area, even if the grape variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated. Winemakers in Burgundy do not believe that they are producing Pinot noir
that happens to be grown in Burgundy, but that they are producing unique Burgundian wines
that happen to be made from Pinot noir. Appellation systems, such as the French AOC systems, have developed around the concepts of "unique wines from a unique area". These systems have also developed into protected designation of origin
across the European Union
so that, for example, winemakers from outside a region like Tuscany
can not produce a Sangiovese
wine and call it a Chianti
. While the wine may be made from the same clonal variety
of Sangiovese, in the same soil composition as found in the Chianti region with winemakers using the Tuscan method of production, there is an assumption that the two wines will be different due to terroir.
The names of these European wine regions are protected so that wines from different regions and different terroir are not confused with wines from that those regions – i.e. A Spanish
"chianti". In the United States
there is some confusion over the use of semi-generic
names like Champagne
but there has been more effort by the American wine industry to recognize the unique association of place names with the wines produced in those places, such as the 2005 Napa Declaration on Place
agreement. While appellation systems and the protected designations of origin can be a way of protecting "unique terroir", the commercial importance of terroir has been a much debated topic in the wine industry.
In Spain in 2018, networks of vintners joined in a grassroots movement
to produce wines with added terroir value with intention to enhance the Spanish rural wine culture.
The importance of terroir affects the price of the agricultural product as well as the products made from the product. Branding, variety, and farmer identification affects the price of a product. The Slow Food
movement appreciates history of a variety of plant or animal, the story of the farmer who produced it, and ultimately the quality of the product. Chefs and bakers develop their own list of qualities they desire for their creations, and terroir affects these.
Wine critics question the value of a Pinot noir wine from a Burgundy Grand Cru vineyard relative to a wine produced from the "lesser terroir" of a ''Premier Cru
'' vineyard, and whether it merits the higher price. These doubts also arise when the quality of winemaking and other human influences are taken into account, which may be of a higher standard with the "lesser" ''premier cru''.
These critics also question the difference between New World
and Old World
wine and whether modern winemaking techniques – like significant oak influences, over-ripened fruit
, cultured yeast, micro-oxygenation, and color pigment additives – obscure or even eliminate the influence of terroir in making different regions unique. Critics often point to the homogenizing effect on mass-produced wines made from popular varietal
s like Chardonnay
, which may have their terroir characteristics hidden by invasive and intensive winemaking. A heavily oaked, over-ripe Chardonnay from California
can taste very similar to the same style of wine from elsewhere. The marketability of wines from different regions and producers is affected by the importance accorded to terroir, both by the wine industry and consumer wine markets, with some producers downplaying terroir and its effect on their wines.
Outside of France
In the United States, the principles of terroir have been applied in a few limited instances, such as Vidalia onion
s, whose production area has been defined by the United States Department of Agriculture
an Indian River fruit
, which can only carry that label if grown within an area defined by the United States Federal Trade Commission
In some East Asia
n countries, terms like ''terroir'' or ''marriage'' have been popularised by Japanese manga
. A 2008–09 Korean drama
, most of whose leading characters work with wine, is titled ''Terroir'' after the main setting, a wine restaurant in turn named for the concept.
In popular culture
The concept of terroir has been discussed in several films and television shows. Jonathan Nossiter
's 2004 documentary, ''Mondovino
'', explores the globalization
of the wine business, and features interviews with a number of small producers, mostly French, who talk about terroir. In the 2006 BBC
series, ''Oz and James's Big Wine Adventure
'', one episode is almost entirely devoted to Oz Clarke
teaching James May
about terroir. At the end of the episode, May identifies three wines successfully, placing them in the correct order on the basis of the quality of terroir they come from.
and Gina Leibrecht's 2007 documentary, ''All In This Tea
'', explores the importance of terroir and organic growing methods for the quality and future sustainability of the Chinese tea
market. Terroir is also a frequent topic of discussion in the Japanese wine comic ''Les Gouttes de Dieu
''. The films ''French Kiss
'' and ''A Good Year
'' also make references to terroir. Terroir recognition is a plot turning point in the 1976 French comedy ''L'aile ou la cuisse
'' (''The Wing or the Thigh'') with Louis de Funès
. In 2014 Keith Carradine
starred in John Charles Jopson
's Edgar Allan Poe
-inspired film ''Terroir
* Plant genetics
* Old World wine
* Red Fife wheat
* Shade-grown coffee