The Importance of Place 

Terroir (pronounced tehr-WAHR) was originally a French term in wine and coffee appreciation used to denote the special characteristics of geography that bestowed individuality upon the food product. It can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place” which is embodied in certain qualities, and the sum effects that local environment has had on the manufacture of the product.

The concept of terroir means that wines from that terroir are unique, incapable of being reproduced outside the area, even if the variety and winemaking techniques are painstakingly duplicated. The French believe that place of production is much more important than the grape variety of the producer.

Although there are some in the wine industry that have downplayed the importance of terroir, most will agree that terroir is the unique character given wine by the local climate, exposure of the vineyards to the sun and wind, and soil conditions. As such, terroir is the expression of the land in wine. Quality wine is only possible with the best grapes, and the best grapes have a lot to do with terroir.

Consider Argentina where most of the vineyard land lies to the north and west, on the right side of the Andes Mountains neighboring Chile. The Andes insulate Argentine vineyards from the cool, moist air blowing off the Pacific, thereby creating conditions ideal for viticulture. Consider this terroir with its unpolluted environments, abundant provision of clear waters from snows in the high Andes and calcareous stony-sandy soils, where development is slow and fruits are rich and concentrated. The dry climate will to allow for healthy grapes with hardly any requirements of fungicides and chemicals. High altitude tempers the climate creating warm sunny days and cool nights and that create mature phenols and a fruity, intense, character for the grapes. There is no doubt; the heights of the Andes Mountains in Argentina can well be considered an outstanding terroir.

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