Terroir part 1 – intro and soil – The Property Chronicle
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Terroir part 1 – intro and soil


There are no two ways about it: the French are mad. As a Francophile I feel comfortable in asserting this. Their country is beautiful, they’re deliciously un-PC and their food and drink is the best in world. No debate. It just is. But they are bonkers. A couple of months ago they were threatening to turn Jersey’s electricity off in a fit of pique brought on by the realisation there may not be enough turbot for lunch. Before that, their president was rubbishing Covid vaccines before telling citizens they would be arrested for attempting to eat a pain-au-raisin in public without two of them. None of it makes any sense.

The French revel in the mysticism of wine and the concept of terroir in particular. Vignerons often describe terroir as the ‘soul’ which embodies their particular vineyard as if it’s haunted by their great-grandmother and that’s why their Syrah tastes like violets. Terroir is held up as being the single most important thing about any given wine and it is the principle which underpins the entire appellation cotrôlée system. We Brits scoff at this, because the French make it sound romantic and therefore deeply suspicious. The troubling thing is, the frogs are completely right and to understand the concept of terroir accurately is to understand a humongous chunk of what wine is all about.

We have no word for terroir in English, but it’s best described as the total natural environment of any given site (Robinson, 2015). Your garden has terroir and if parts of it receive different hours of sunlight, have different gradients or deeper soil, then it has multiple terroirs. If you plant broad beans in all those different spots they will grow and ripen differently because of the different conditions. That is all terroir is really. It’s very real and self-evident.


About Robert England

Robert England

After graduating from university I spent the following decade living and working between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Melbourne. During this time, I was exposed to a world of food and wine I’d never experienced back in blighty (thank you company Amex) where, truth be told, I was more concerned with where my next pint of snakebite was coming from. With the help of some very generous sommeliers and winemakers, I found myself spending the hours I should have been flogging corporate health insurance touring wine regions and filling my face with good grub and artisanal Pinot Noir until I got to the point I had to jack it all in and pursue a career in wine full time. Since then I have studied and sniffed my way through the WSET L4 Diploma becoming an Associate of the Institute of Wine and Spirits, winning the Earl of Wessex Scholarship, the LISCIO Tasting Trophy and judging at international wine competitions along the way. I now live in Lewes where I run my own business, Wine Boar, hosting tastings, dinners, selling the occasional case of Soave and writing intermittent drivel on food, booze and my other passion, sport with balls. Email: Robert@Wine-Boar.com | Website: www.Wine-Boar.com

Articles by Robert England

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