What is terroir, and how does it affect the wine you drink?

You may have come across the term “terroir” (pronounced ‘te-rwar’) if you are into wine and interested in where the wine you buy online comes from. This term comes from the French word “terre”, which means land.

In general, the word terroir refers to the environmental factors and human practices that affect an artisanal good's end product. In this case, that’s wine. Terroir can also affect other products, such as tobacco, hops, tea, and agave in tequila or mezcal. 

Most of the time, these products’ terroir can define and raise their value. Products from specific locations made with traditional practices are often valued over similar products made elsewhere through a different process.

This article will run you through everything you need to know about terroir and how it affects the wine you drink.


Its Origins

Terroir was initially used to describe French wine. To this day, there is no English equivalent to this term. This same term formed the French wine regions we love today and affects both the wine and the winemakers in these notable areas.

Initially, this term distinguished old world wines from new world wines. Now it is a part of a long-standing tradition in French winemaking.

The monks were the instrumental figures of winemaking throughout Europe as they tended to vast areas of land. They were responsible for developing a rich understanding of terroir and how it affects the wine produced in an area.

The rise of the Burgundy and Champagne regions in France was made possible by the Benedictine monks.


Factors Considered in Terroir

There are various factors in an area that are considered when assessing terroir. Some of these primary factors include the following:

  • The climate in the region: affects the type of grapes grown in the area. 
  • Some grapes are sensitive to climate factors such as heat, rainfall, hours of sunlight, and others. 

    An example is the Chardonnay grapes which result in a tropical style when grown in warmer climates such as in California. When grown in cooler areas such as Germany, they have potent aromas and flavours of green apple.


  • Soil type: there is a long list of soil types, but it can be classified into four broad categories - igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary, and soil textures such as silt. 
  • The grapes from Sicily are grown in igneous volcanic soil, while Germany’s Mosel region grows their grapes in metamorphic slate soil. 

    The sparkling wine from Champagne and Sherry from Jerez are grown from sedimentary soils heavy in minerals.


  • Physical geography: the topography or physical geography of a vineyard can affect the conditions in the area. For example, a vineyard in a valley such as the Loire Valley can get very hot during the day while it gets drastically cooler at night.
  • Vineyards on mountains have lower temperatures compared to vineyards at sea level.


  • Flora and fauna:
  • Flora and fauna refer to the insects, animals, and other plants in the region. Particular flora can increase the likelihood of pests, while specific fauna can help remove the presence of pests. These pests can wipe out an entire strain of a grape variety at times.


    Terroir Affects Winemaking

    Winemakers make decisions based on the terroir in their specific region, whether that’s when to prune their vines, when to harvest, apply pesticides, or how to irrigate their vineyards. This affects the wine they make and makes it unique to that area.

    The next time you get a wine delivery, you may want to consider the terroir of the wine you purchase and how it affects your wine.
    Are you looking to taste wines from different countries and regions? We at Plonk Wine are a wine supplier in the UK offering a vast collection of wines from various countries. Check out our collection today!


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