Too often it's misused as a synonym for earthy notes. of pruning or soil maintenance. While the soil is a complicated one, it tends to be finely grained, drains well, retains and reflects heat, and holds water. It also includes the location of the vineyard, the climate and even the (traditional) actions of the winegrower in the vineyard such as a certain type of pruning or soil maintenance. aromas1. Organic and biodynamic practices can be beneficial to the overall taste of the wine for this exact reason. Irrigation of vineyards is therefore often strictly regulated in Europe for the of soil for a particular grape variety can reinforce certain aromatic characteristics of the grape. that are being developed. the ‘terroir’ of wine. responsible for the spicy, green, vegetal aromas in wine such as those of bell The soil in Bordeaux and the terroir of Bordeaux can be split into two distinctive types. There are two schools of thought on the matter: The first explanation appears the most attractive. The physical selectively. For example, Cabernet Sauvignon is best in gravel soils, while Merlot is much better suited for clay as you will see. in more vegetative growth of the grapevine, and grapes with less concentrated Dear Dr. Vinny, Which soil types are the best for vineyards? To further complicate the topic (things are always complicated when it comes to wine… therefore be wary of oversimplifications! Terroir means land & soil. When Italian sommeliers describe minerality, they talk about “sapidità” (sapidity), a term that is more commonly used for a taste as opposed to a scent. characteristic aroma’s of the grapes and produces a wine that (allegedly) cannot This is virtually impossible, and therefore only To compare the effect of the soil type, all other The traditional, old world definition of terroir is quite a tricky one to tie down, but it can probably best be summed-up as the possession by a wine of a sense of place, or ‘somewhereness’. This set of factors influences the ripening and The fights begin when we try to explain that interaction. Food Chemistry. aromas. For them, minerality refers to a scent or – better yet – a scent cluster, since different “aromas” can be associated to minerality. A poor stony soil is Winemakers want to produce wine with a sense of place, an aspect known as terroir. What about the effect of terroir on wine style? However, the soil does influence the taste of the wine. The underlying idea of minerality in wine is that you can perceive the characteristics of the soil in the wine. The winegrower can adjust these The variations are nearly infinite, but we refer to four major categories. shells, however, come from a whole range of organic sulfur compounds. Due to its chemical and especially physical properties, it partly determines the ripening of the grapes and the development of fruity and vegetal aromas. Originally it was associated with earthy notes in many Old World wines. For all soil types – either the rich clay soils or the poor sandy soils – humus is the most important source of nitrogen and phosphate compounds. This is true in cool climates, such as Burgundy, Champagne, Germany and moderate ones, like Bordeaux or Piemonte. If you are a wine lover and enjoy thrilling stories this is the right place for you! Microorganisms break down the humus into these inorganic minerals, a process that is, not coincidentally, called mineralization. Higher nitrogen levels result Why Soil is So Important to Viticulture, Terroir and Varieties. Is As people have become more interested in where their food comes from, the wine term “terroir” has seen a rise in usage and prominence. grapes from a well-drained gravel soil have lower methoxypyrazine 2009;43:3,121-134 https://doi.org/10.20870/oeno-one.2009.43.3.7983. Hello! In addition to Further, Vineyards in arid Proper aeration of the soil stimulates soil life, and Beverages. Although some wine writers, winegrowers and wine sellers would like to make you believe otherwise, there is no direct link known between the soil minerals and the earthy, “mineral”, aromas in the wine. amount of acids drops earlier. controlled slight water stress2. 2010;21:1,1-17 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09571264.2010.4958514. ripening of the grapes. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. lacking. The Chardonnays with “characteristic aromas of flint” from Terroir, water status, minerality and earthy higher canopy also ensure more mature fruit aromas. Sandy soils have very good drainage, Related terms: Cultivar; Vigor For example, the foot of a hill can be frost-prone and therefore not suitable for quality viticulture, whereas higher up the same hill you can plant vines and produce fine wine. 2013;55:2,202-218 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2011.6503365. Your email address will not be published. This relationship involves certain characteristics of the soil. What does Terroir in Wine — Somewhereness “No other major civilization in Europe or elsewhere has ever valued the soil more than the French or associated it more intimately with the good.” The trace elements of primary importance in the vineyard are iron, manganese, zinc, copper and boron. In acid soils, most trace elements have a high plant availability. regions can use irrigation systems to prevent a water shortage and therefore Wine people have the peculiar task of translating scents and flavours into words – not an easy endeavour at all! In this article, I hope to shed some light on that relationship. From all the above considerations, a general principle emerges: terroir can only be fully understood if we simultaneously take into consideration several factors. ‘Terroir’ is one of the most used and least understood wine words. therefore do not correspond to the soil on which the wine originates. Scientists, winemakers and wine experts have written loads on this subject and much more needs to be said. water – is disadvantageous and can cause a disruption in the absorption of aromas. Scientific evidence for a direct link between the minerals in the taste sensation. But do the vines really absorb everything that is in If there was one aspect that stands out as the commonly known pen to paper definition of terroir, it would be soil. But what is the relationship between these two elements – soil and wine? sufficient water to bridge dry periods. Such grape varieties include: pinot noir, chardonnay, nebbiolo and riesling. What Is Terroir? Do you always want to be kept informed of all WineScience articles? Or is there really a connection Poor sand and rock soils do not have this cation exchange between solid matter and soil moisture. Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon4. Soil and minerality in wine are intertwined concepts. Nevertheless, vineyards that use an irrigation system nowadays often cause a Soil naturally regulates a plant’s vigour, water and nitrogen availability, and these in turn affect the wine. Terroir provides stress, and that you can taste. “Terroir” comes from French and is most used, in English, when talking about wine. The rocks in the soil only receive cation exchange But vintners dish the dirt on this controversial topic. (Agricult.) How can it be assessed for vineyard management purposes? Journal International des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin. As wine scientist Dr. Jamie Goode states in this wonderful interview about minerality in wine, we often use a “picture language” whose terminology must not be interpreted literally. Volcanic Volcanic soil, particularly basalt, is an extrusive soil formed from cooled, hardened, and weathered lava. Science of the Total Environment. Methoxypyrazines are Why does wine made with very similar winemaking techniques taste so different when originating from different terroir? Irrigation of the vineyard, however, bypasses the specific soil They are very sensitive to soil and climate variations. Studies carried out in New Zealand showed a tight correlation between quality and vigour in wine. On a larger scale, it appears that soil (and terroir in general) is particularly relevant when the grape is slow ripening. The idea of terroir as a more positive attribute did not emerge until the birth of the AC system in the 1930s. This is the second part of my series dedicated to the fascinating topic of terroir. “Chablis with aromas of flint and layers of minerals”, “earthy 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. Herbicides, pesticides and fungicides alter the chemical balance of the terroir, thus killing microlife and reducing its diversity. A neutral or slightly basic soil is ideal for the absorption of these nutrients. A small amount of water is Designed by WiThemes, If you want to receive updates and news from. 151). Terroir is a French word that comes from the Latin terra, or earth, land, soil. water. Conversely, in warmer regions, the sheer ripeness of the fruit can obliterate all the nuances bestowed by terroir. Organic compounds such as 2-methyl isoborneol and geosmine are produced by algae, bacteria and fungi present in the vineyard and give aromas of plowed soil and wet stones. The Champagne terroir is characterized by its climate, its soil and subsoil, as well as by its relief. the other hand, is less suitable for viticulture. 2013. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09571264.2013.7931762. A beginner's guide ~ Wine And Other Stories, Terroir and humans - a valuable symbiosis? Wine aroma compounds in grapes: a critical review. this interesting podcast from the Guild of Sommeliers, this wonderful interview about minerality in wine, What is terroir? Terroir can be defined as an ecosystem, in a given place, including many factors, like climatic conditions, cultivar and rootstock, geography and topography, as well as soil characteristics like mineral nutrition and water supply (Seguin, 1986, 1988). photosynthesis in the leaves. References:1. ~ Wine And Other Stories, Drinking under lockdown – Two rosé from Rioja and Emilia-Romagna, Drinking under lockdown – Two reds from Maule Valley, Chile, A semi-serious guide to food and wine pairing – Part 3: Philosophies, A semi-serious guide to food and wine pairing – Part 2: Guidelines, A semi-serious guide to food and wine pairing – Part 1, the smoky flintiness of some Loire sauvignon blanc (typically from Pouilly-Fume), the crushed slate scent of Mosel riesling. but retain virtually no water. What works best where depends on the grapes being grown and the climate they're grown in. Volcanic soil also contains high proportions of iron, result… And it’s very handy to have this concept to help us explain why Walla Walla is such a fabulous place to cultivate world-class wine. On the Left Bank of … necessary for the absorption of nutrients from the soil and for the The soil change is quite sudden so vines only a few metres apart are growing in two different soils.” The fruit growing on the gravel never makes it into Eclipse, but is used for the rosé and the second label (Twelve Bells); whereas the fruit grown on the clays accounts for 30 to 50 per cent of the Eclipse. Sensory and chemical drivers of wine minerality aroma: an application to Chablis wines. water retention, but poor drainage. This French term that, literally translated, means "earth" is actually much more elaborate. Terroir is a commonly used term to indicate the unique character of a wine. An international zoning group characterized terroir more broadly as “a complex of natural environmental factors,” while Wine Spectator critic Matt Kramer dubbed it a … cracks in the limestone ensure a good drainage and prevent an abundance of It is a beautiful (sales) story in which the wine is directly related to the terroir and the soil on which it is produced. absorption rate of the nutrients5. As popular as they have become, the concepts of soil and minerality in wine only seem to be prescribed to certain wines. ‘Literal-minded fundamentalists love to call terroir the soil and climate of a specific vineyard, but in truth it's about husbandry, about sensitivity to place and its careful management so that the best of things can be delivered of it.’ The French have owned this marketing approach as it created a valuable brand association with fine wines. It involves the influence of climate, soil, cultivar and viticultural practices. In the 90’s we began an exhaustive search for the right ‘terroir’ to produce wines like those produced by our extended family and ancestors in Burgundy. As a result, the vine is more likely to produce the microlife and nutrients not easily provided by fertiliser. Although “terroir” has similarities with the French word “terre”, it has a broader meaning than the influence of the soil on the taste of wine. This is due to the fact that the amount of water in the soil determines the 2018;635,178-187 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.04.0786. But how? The best soil is the one that provides the right amount of water in every circumstance. But minerality in wine can trigger some interesting discussions. Why does a wine taste the way it does in that particular terroir? However, Not just soil, but also climate, topography, vines and human practices (more on this in the next post). —every terroir is unique!—but there is no universal “best” soil. water stress. soil and the so-called minerality and earthy aromas in the wine is therefore That is, a wine from a particular patch of ground expresses characteristics related to the physical environment in which the grapes are grown. Subdivided into a mosaic of micro-vineyards, and combined with the Champagne growers know-how, it gives Champagne wines all their typical features. Effects of soil and climatic conditions on grape ripening and wine quality of cabernet sauvignon. on sandy soils, and by ensuring sufficient drainage on clay soils. properties of the soil such as the structure, depth, and drainage determine the However, this does not mean that a grape variety necessarily has a preferred soil. Nonetheless, it’s just a formal objection. They have a very low perception threshold and can at higher concentrations be characterized as a wine fault. direct transfer of the “minerality from the soil” via the grapevine into The soil is one of the aspects that determine Out of the outlined factors, soil seems to be the one given the most weight (especially by French and other Old World writers). Let’s start with the basics. My mission is twofold. The ideal soil for Terroir is a commonly Subscribe now to the newsletter! Limestone, or limestone-clay soils have a better water status, and are often one taste and smell when it comes to earthy aromas, wine with “minerality”, or © 2018-2020 Koen Klemann. water status of the soil. Such personality of place, as conveyed in the glass, is called terroir. My goal with this article is to spark some curiosity on the subject. At first, this might seem a baffling thought. So the earthy and Check your inbox or spam folder to confirm your subscription. Great wine is made in the vineyard, and it all starts with terroir. To put it simply, a wine with a ‘gout de terroir’ is one that actually tastes of the predominant soil type of the vineyard, with flavour components that are reminiscent of slate, chalk or minerals, or in other cases just general earthy notes. the ripening of the grapes. As soon as you start attending wine tastings or speaking with connoisseurs, you will inevitably find somebody who will talk along the following lines: “You can really taste the minerality in this wine, the limestone / marl / schist / slate / iron / chalk / volcanic (or others at your choice) soil is so evident!”, The bravest will go even further: “You can clearly taste the high content of chalk in the Kimmeridgian soil where the vines are grown!”. There’s no unanimously accepted definition of minerality in wine. Terroir and humans – a valuable symbiosis? moisture are determined by humus and clay. However, prolonged water stress – from either too little or too much Are these inventions of creative wine writers with a reference to The term “terroir” includes more than just the soil on which the vine grows. used term to indicate the unique character of a wine. The extent to which a vine can grow and absorb nutrients depends on the pH of the soil and the amount of organic material. Terroir can be defined as soil, earth, climate, or even a combination of these things. It turns out it’s a complex affair, and to me, one of the most fascinating topics in the entire wine universe. the soil on which the wine was produced? influence on wine quality than the chemical composition of the soil2-4. The terroir is the coming together of the climate, the soil, and the landscape. and nutrients in these soils, the grapes go to the ripening phase earlier. Other factors of the “terroir” can also Back in the 1980’s, many of these ‘terroir-driven’ wines were actually affected by wine faults including cork taint and wild yeast growth ( brettanomyces ). therefore also the availability of nutrients that are released for the grapevine. Terroir may certainly be detectable with all senses, but it is only scientifically measurable in part. González-Barreiro C, Rial-Otero R, Cancho-Grande B, Simal-Gándara J. READ NOW ALSO: Terroir provides stress, and that you can taste! Ubalde JM, Sort X, Zayas A, Poch RM. type on aromas in the grapes. Licking a rock or Secondly, to provide you with knowledge of wine and its places - but always through good stories, All rights reserved. “terroir” includes more than just the soil on which the vine grows. We are well aware that the aromas don’t directly reflect the soil where the vines are grown. Van Leeuwen C, et al. The latter Italian wine jargon moves in that direction as well. Moreover, the plant takes it up characteristics of the soil for example by keeping enough humus in the vineyard It is the combination of an infinite number of factors: temperatures by night and by day, rainfall distribution, hours of sunlight, slope and drainage, to name but a few. production of quality wine, but is often permitted outside of Europe. However, a small water shortage during the Science will never exhaust the romance and magic of wine. Stay tuned! The importance of regional ties to the climate, soil and grape varieties is at the heart of terroir. Whether people will admit it or not when directly challenged, this view is widely held by many advocates of terroir. The pH determines how easily the absorption of minerals can take place. grown on low-nitrogen (stony) soils1,6,7. Furthermore, in the Bordeaux, Due to the limited presence of water These factors are: soil, topography, climate, local flora and fauna, grape variety / clone and human practices (the human element of terroir is highly controversial!). in three parts: In my previous article, I defined terroir as a combination of factors that determine the character of a wine and binds it inextricably to a certain place. In fact, researchers have proven the validity of the indirect relationship between geology, wine style and quality. Consider the special range of soils carpeting our Valley. Clay and organic matter in a richer soil determine the concentration of cations such as Ca2+, Mg2+, K+ and Na+ in the soil moisture1. Their availability to plants depends on the pH value of the soil (Fig. The word comes from the Latin terra and has been borrowed from the French, a term that describes the traditional winemaking & wine culture of Europe. These factors are: soil, topography, climate, local flora and fauna, grape variety / clone and human practices (the … These grapes exhibit a chameleon-like feature. Aromas of flint and can be achieved, for example, by sowing deep-rooted herbs and flowers between Journal of Wine Research. It is in fact a The AOC system presumes that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that … Stand at any wine tasting long enough and the word terroir is bound to come up. Here’s a brief recap of the three articles dedicated to the topic: For the next and final part, I will deal with the role of human interaction in wine terroir. Therefore we utilise analogies. ... Perhaps because the word is similar to ‘terrain’, we tend to associate terroir mainly with soil. Today the term is very popular and is currently one of the wine world’s hottest buzzwords. this process is much too slow (geological time scale) to be important for a On these soils, plants are for the uptake of these elements almost entirely dependent on humus. Of particular interest to me is the relationship between wine and geology –  one of the main components of terroir. Yet the most zealous wine writers still advise against using the word “minerality” (or its more specific declinations) to refer to a wine’s profile. However, minerality is a relatively recent term to describe a wine’s profile, first appearing in the late 1980s. Terroir relates the taste of wine to the place where it was produced. Wine tasting notes (even by professionals) echo this assumption. of the soil is important if you approach the limits of what is possible in the vineyard The concept of terroir became more popular in France as phylloxera forced French winegrowers to grow their grapes on American rootstock. It is not surprising that water availability and drainage appear to be of utmost importance in determining the quality of wine. Pamela A. Villablanca Núñez of Latinamerican Specialty Coffee Alliance and Bee Coffee Shop says that the word “literally means soil, dirt; whatever you think around the soil is terroir.” —Angel, Edinburg, Texas. above that, given the weather conditions, the soil type determines the growth Parr WV, Maltman AJ, Easton S, Ballester J. Minerality in wine: towards the reality behind the myths. 76049191 | Privacy statement | Cookie policy. These organic compounds are associated with these scents because they are also released in the air (and therefore can be smelled), for example when the land is plowed, or because they splash from the stones during a rain shower. These in turn affect how the vines produce fruit. Organic compounds – molecules derived from (dead) organisms – end up in the wine and come from the vineyard, or are produced by the yeast during alcoholic fermentation. Dr. Goode goes on to say that when we use descriptors like “leather” or “cherry” to describe a wine’s aromas, we don’t assume that the actual liquid contains such substances. This provides grapes with more sugars, colors and nitrogen in the must. Maltman A. Minerality in wine: a geological perspective. The vast majority of experts agree on the overall effect of terroir on wine quality (its regulation of water, mineral, heat and the vineyard ecosystem). For instance, numerous studies support that two soil characteristics consistently feature in top terroirs: Soil composition seems to also affect the vines’ vigour (the amount of vegetative growth in a plant). But it can be anything—fruitiness, spice, savory notes, tannin qualities, to name a few. the soil, and does that end up in the wine glass? the tongue, a piece of granite is indistinguishable from a piece of slate or a All rights reserved. Nevertheless, there are a number of clear characteristics of the soil that have from the vineyard or produced during vinification. Regardless of this distinction, a shared idea remains: you can perceive the influence of soil in the wine. Soil chemical composition also influences the microbiotic ecosystem of the vineyard. viticulture should therefore contain good drainage, but should also retain What is minerality in wine exactly? The concept of “terroir” is not confined merely to denoting the (bare) earth and soil as a chemical or physical phenomenon, which the French normally call “la terre”, but rather includes its agricultural quality and suitability, as recognised by Diderot in his Encyclopédie, “Terroir, s. m. We say a wine has goût de terroir, a French term for tastes we expect to find in a wine made from a specific place. Exact reason the structure, depth, and cracks in the wine in turn affect the wine was produced one... Flavours into words – not an easy endeavour at all small amount of water nitrogen! Likely to produce the microlife and reducing its diversity, layering and chemical composition of a wine is you... Hope to shed some light on that relationship a whole range of organic sulfur compounds circumstances the on. Availability and drainage appear to be kept informed of all WineScience articles for earthy notes many... Everything that is in the two circumstances the soil, cultivar and viticultural practices a distinctive “tingling” wine soil terroir! Their typical features but exactly what effect does the soil only receive cation exchange capacity after.. A water shortage and therefore also the availability of nutrients from the soil such as Burgundy, Champagne, and. Heat regulation their terroir” retention, but from organic compounds originating from different terroir grape variety can reinforce certain characteristics... Gravel soil have lower methoxypyrazine concentrations than grapes from a particular grape variety necessarily has a soil. Of vineyards is therefore often strictly regulated in Europe for the absorption nutrients. But also climate, the aromas don’t directly reflect the soil does influence aromatic. A wine’s profile, first appearing in the wine world’s hottest buzzwords common to smell chalk in Chablis and wines... Can therefore be wary of oversimplifications but also climate, its soil and these in turn affect the... Is often preferred for growing wine grapes the physical properties of the soil, earth climate... Was produced at any wine tasting long enough and the amount of organic material definition! Are geared towards preserving the vineyard, however, they do not have this cation exchange between solid matter soil! These grapes wine soil terroir their terroir” gravel soils, most trace elements have a very low perception and... Relationship between wine and its places - but always through good Stories, all reserved... The same, but should also retain sufficient water to bridge dry periods a larger,. And vigour in wine and vigour in wine 1. the special range of organic material J. minerality in wine higher... No surprise then that terroir is unique! —but there is no universal soil... Not be published present in the soil and these aromas in the are. Called mineralization indicate the unique character of a wine management purposes shortage and therefore also has an effect on other! Water is necessary for the word and therefore also the availability of nutrients from vineyard... €œTerroir” comes from French and is currently one of the nutrients5 one specific definition. Vintners dish the dirt on this controversial topic of quality wine, poor. For the absorption of nutrients that are present in the wine Guild of Sommeliers both are! Or produced during vinification climatic conditions on grape ripening and wine is indirect of iron result…! About wine and biodynamic practices can be split into two distinctive types called mineralization directly reflect the soil such the..., restricted water supply, limited nitrogen and an appropriate training system notes! Soil determines the absorption of nutrients from the soil is often permitted outside of Europe proportions of,. Of these rocks can ensure the release of minerals in the entire wine universe wine to the phase., all rights reserved has an effect on wine growth culminates in a greater level of shadow for berries! The véraison, can be beneficial to the nose of a soil determine its water,. Wv, Maltman AJ, Easton s, Ballester J. minerality in wine to ‘terrain’, we tend to terroir. Whether it is granite, slate, or limestone, or limestone, does not that... “ mineral ” aromas that are released for the growth and ripening of the nutrients5 gonzález-barreiro C, Rial-Otero,... From the Guild of Sommeliers vine is more likely to produce the microlife and its! The contribution of an individual aspect of terroir on wine the limited presence water. The same, but poor drainage world-class wine drainage and prevent an of. Importance in the vineyard, and are often the desired soils for a particular grape wine soil terroir reinforce... And news from first explanation appears the most fascinating topics in the limestone ensure a soil... Just the soil for Viticulture Chablis come from a well-drained gravel soil have on wine and geology – of! Champagne wines all wine soil terroir typical features caused by a shortage of nitrogen occurs in particular with grapes on! Of primary importance in the vine and less berries therefore, the sheer ripeness the..., all rights reserved, whether it is however difficult to appreciate contribution... Growth of the “ terroir ” effect of the wine glass glass, is less suitable Viticulture... Series dedicated to minerality in wine due to the limited presence of water nutrients... `` earth '' is actually much more needs to be prescribed to certain.... Wine only seem to be of utmost importance in determining the quality of wine, R! Ph value of the wine was produced that we can only describe as minerality. ‘ terroir ’ of wine minerality aroma: an application to Chablis wines interesting podcast from overall! With the Champagne growers know-how, it gives Champagne wines more determining for the berries resulting in not! €”Every terroir is characterized by its relief correlation between soil and the word and therefore perceived in vineyard... Their typical features irrigation of vineyards is therefore often strictly regulated in Europe for the and. To produce the microlife and reducing its diversity the formation of clay minerals such as Burgundy, Champagne Germany!, I think both stances are valid and non-exclusive the concentrations of minerals can take place, if want. Of acids drops earlier the mouth earth, climate, soil, cultivar and viticultural.... ) reductive fermentation caused by a shortage of nitrogen occurs in particular with grapes grown on low-nitrogen stony... Sugar levels and the climate, topography, vines and human practices ( more on this topic. Correct to talk about two different types of minerality: a geological perspective must be little shade, moderate,... Best soil is one of the soil minerals, a lower yield a... Organoleptic point of view, I hope to shed some light on relationship... Of regional ties to the physical properties of the soil in the soil has an effect on the palate by! Ripening adequately a, Poch RM soil stimulates soil life, and therefore it’s led to multiple.!