Do you know your terroir?

April 10, 2013

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Terr…what? Terroir (pronounced terr-war) is a French term meaning sense of place, the total natural environment of a viticulture area. There isn’t one word in English that imparts the same meaning. The terroir of an area is more than the soil, the elevation, the average temperatures, the frequency of fog. It is the combination of all of these factors and it is paramount to grape-growing. There isn’t one ideal terroir, but rather there are ideal terroirs for different varieties of grapes.

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see much cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot grigio coming out of Missouri wineries? It’s because our state’s terroir isn’t necessarily suited for those grape varieties, often called vinifera grapes. However, that does not deter the vintners of the area from growing great grapes and making delicious wine. Instead, it has created a culture of innovation and experimentation in the Missouri wine industry.

When you drink wines made out of grapes with names like Vidal Blanc, Norton, Vignoles, Chardonel, Chambourcin and Traminette (the list goes on), you are tasting wines made with grapes chosen specifically for the benefits and challenges of the local terroir. They may sound a little odd at first and wineries are happy to help with the ever-challenging issue of pronunciation. Just remember, they are made specifically with you in mind by winemakers and grape-growers who have spent years getting to know the soil, climate, and all the other components that make up the terroir of what is essentially your backyard.