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Basics of Terroir

THIS IS A BIG SUBJECT, and there are lots of links below for further learning.

When it comes to terroir, we’re talking about the impact of a place (the soil, the weather, and even the people and the culture) on the agricultural product that comes from that place.

It’s not just soil, but soil has a lot to do with it.

Here’s one good and simple example: in Napa Valley, you can find Cabernet Sauvignon grown on the valley floor as well as in the surrounding mountains.

Napa Valley floor Cabernet Sauvignon is basked in heat during the day, covered with fog at night, the dirt tends to be more nutrient-rich, making for vigorous growth on the vine and plump berries.

Napa Valley mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is grown above the fog line, with more extreme weather, with the sun beating down on the vines, with nutrient-poor soils (if you can even call them ‘soils’ … often it’s just volcanic rock), making for smaller berries with more concentration and more tannin.

Same grape, grown close to each-other, making two totally different wines. Here’s a good article that dives deeper into Napa Cabernet.

More links for learning

A good overview article on terroir, and a more detailed overview on terroir.

Here’s an extremely thorough article on impact of climate on grapes and wines, produced by the Guild of Sommeliers.

Vine scientists refer to the heat accumulation as “Growing degree days” and this is the deciding factor when it comes to what to plant and where. We’ve made a super cool chart for you explaining this concept.

And finally, if you really want to geek out on the science of terroir, here’s a video featuring “Dr. Terroir” himself, Kevin Pogue of Whitman College, who is the number one authority on the subject. I’ve been lucky enough to sit in on his seminars, and I can certify that this guy knows more than anyone I’ve ever met about the subject.

Further Reading

The Wine Bible Vol. 2, by Karen MacNeil
Pages 16-36