The Death of Terroir? Mais Non!!

It’s always nice to have your ideas validated by scientists with a "PhD" after their name.

Recently I speculated that the impact of a"terroir" on a wine is most often overshadowed by the hand of the winemaker. I went on to suggest that in fact the winemaking traditions in a given region should be added to the definition of terroir if only because a region’s traditional winemaking techniques (such as using new oak, picking the grapes excessively ripe, extended maceration for example) may be the best explanation for a regional style, rather than the "terroir".

It appears that Olivier Gergaud, of Université de Reims Champagne, and Victor Ginsburgh of the European Centre for Advanced Research in Economics and Statistics (ECARES) and the Université Libre de Bruxelles are set to argue that it’s the winemaking technique’s, rather than terroir that are most responsible for making memorable or great wines.

The findings are a result of studying the environmental conditions and winemaking techniques of over 100 wineries in Bordeaux’s Haut-Médoc region.

The French and their winemakers, most of them at least, are going to dismiss these findings faster than you can say "Vin Ordiniare."

The idea of great terroir as the foundation for great wine is at the very heart of the French and francophile’s claim that Gallic wines are at the top of the vinious ladder: "French terroir can not be reproduced and is the source of the greatness of the French wine industry."

Maybe not.

It will take more than a study to convince many wine drinkers that French soil is not the source for the best wines in the world. And it will take more than this study to convince most romantics that a winemaker can exert more influence over the character of a wine than the "terroir"….or put another way, should exert more influence.

When the exportation of wine only took place in France, Spain, Italy and Germany, it was easy to mark France and it’s soils as the heartland of wine greatness. But today wines from many more countries are available across the globe. This accessibility to great wines from Argentina, New Zealand, California, New York, Chile, South Africa and Tasmania is what levels the playing field, to the dismay of the Old Guard. And it is the reason that no country can claim to have a terroir alone capable of producing the best wines.

Thanks to Dr. Vino for alerting us to this story.

Posted In: Terroir


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