What is Terroir?

Jerry wrote in to ask one of the most controversial questions of all: What is terroir? It’s a tricky question because different folks apply different meanings and some think it doesn’t exist at all! This short video will fill you in:

I know I’m going to get some push-back on this business of the soil not flavoring the wine directly, so let me go to a higher authority: Dr. Mark Matthews, Professor & Plant Physiologist for the Department of Viticulture and Enology at University of California at Davis (California’s best-known wine school.)

His comments to the New York Times: “Plants don’t really interact with rocks,” explains Mark Matthews, a plant physiologist at the University of California, Davis who studies vines. “They interact with the soil, which is a mixture of broken-down rock and organic matter. And plant roots are selective. They don’t absorb whatever’s there in the soil and send it to the fruit. If they did, fruits would taste like dirt.” He continues, “Any minerals from the solid rock that vine roots do absorb — sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, a handful of others — have to be dissolved first in the soil moisture. Most of them are essential nutrients, and they mainly affect how well the plant as a whole grows.”

It’s interesting, too, that some enologists (wine scientists) believe that what we detect as mineral character in wine may actually be sulfur compounds that have formed due to a nutrient-deprived fermentation.

I know, we’re getting a little geeky, here, but it’s really kind of fascinating.

So – do you prefer to buy wine by the region, by the variety – or both?

Visit A Million Cooks for more brief videos from experts on the food you eat: Where it comes from, where to buy it and how to prepare it.

Send me your wine question   I’ll get back to you in a jiffy!

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