The word 'terrior' has been popping up in wine circles for months. But not everyone's got to grips with this slightly annoying French word.
From the word terre, or "land" in English, terroir traditionally describes an agricultural site that shares a particular climate, soil, topography and farming technique. All of these have many factors, each of which determines the final product.
The influences of climate include temperature, daily hours of sunlight, rainfall and wind. The climatic zones can be classified, from largest to smallest, as macroclimate,
mesoclimate and microclimate. The last mentioned could refer to a unit as small as a row of vines.
This refers to how the land is structured. The height above sea level, the way the slopes face and their steepness are all critical and must be taken into account by the wine grower when he decides what grapes to plant and where.
This varies immensely and has a critical effect on the growing of the vines. Important factors in the make-up of soils are the amounts of clay, limestone, granite and sandstone.
The water retention of the soil is also important and this often depends on the clay content. The acid or alkaline nature of the soil as well as its mineral content also plays a crucial role.
Man interacts with all of the above factors and is the final component of terroir. He has numerous decisions to make – including trellising, pruning and management of the vines’ canopy – to ensure that his vines reach their maximum potential.
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