What’s the terroir?

The term terroir, or terruño in Spanish, is a concept that puts together the characteristics specific to the soil, the topography, the climatology and the biodiversity of the environment in which the vines are grown. The aim of a wine culture that takes into account all of these factors is to obtain a wine with particular and unique characteristics, which speaks on its place of origin itself.
terroir wines

It is not easy to define the term terroir in a few words, since lots of factors are involved:

– Temperature, sunshine hours and day/night thermal difference.
– Kind of winds and their strength.
– Soil and subsoil level of moisture.
– Latitude and altitude.
– Topography.
– Soil texture, structure, depth and composition.
– Fertility and drainage.
– Vineyard orientation and inclination.
– Variety, clone and kind of rootstock.
– Foliar surface.
– Pathologies and the ways to fight against them.
– The microflora and the macrofauna.
– The human factor.

The division of the wine regions in France in A.O.C. (Appellation d’origine contrôlée), which could be translated as Designation of Origin, is based on the kind of terroir. At the same time, each A.O.C. is subdivided in quality designations such as Château, Domaine or Clos, which allow classifying the best vineyards. These divisions could be compared to the Spanish Pago, Finca or Clos. The region of Bourgogne, which is divided in a mosaic of thousands of small plots with an average surface of 6 ha per estate, is the best representative of the fragmentation of the French wine lands.

In Spain, the classification of the wine soils in Denominaciones de Origen was based on historical, political and economic reasons. This is the reason why in one D.O. a huge diversity of terroirs can be found which cannot be enclosed, qualified or regulated.

The consumption of terroir wines attracts a more elitist audience, different to the one that purchases wines with a Designation of Origin. Thanks to its training and uses, this kind of audience appreciates the singularities of each terroir. However, due to the low production and exclusiveness, these wines are not at all economic.

Until now, the concept of terroir was widely unknown in Spain. This is the reason why the consumers gave priority to wines from a qualified winemaker, from a Designation of Origin or from a specific grape variety. Nowadays, there is an emerging audience that is increasing progressively, which demands wines that express the exclusiveness of their place of origin. That is why, the winemakers are increasingly betting for this wine concept. Some examples could be Clos Mogador from the D.O.Q. Priorat, Artadi and Finca Ygay in the D.O.Q. Rioja, Vega Sicila in D.O. Ribera del Duero, Pago Dehesa del Carrizal in Toledo, Castellroig in the D.O. Penedès, Álvaro Palacios’ estates in the D.O. Bierzo and D.O.Q. Priorat, which devote part or their complete production to elaborate terroir wines.

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