Why Terroir isn’t Everything – It’s the Only Thing

Once one stops asking questions in the world of wine, you might as well admit that your time in this most wonderful of cultural, scientific and agricultural arenas is over. It is the continued search for answers pertaining to a plethora of aspects about wine that makes this such a fascinating environment to work in. Oh, allow me to correct myself, one does not work in the wine world: you live there.

That is why the continued search for the meaning of the term terroir, which has unfortunately become too easy, ubiquitous in its use instead of being respected as the very soul of wine, never stops to bring a smile to my face. I find this inspiring. It is evident of the ever-dynamic nature of the wine industry that terroir is today being as fervently and hotly debated as it was when it began to hit our back-labels, tasting notes and printed reviews in the 1990s.

Speaking as a part-time winemaker with almost three decades of life in the vineyard and in the winery, I believe that every person has his or her own interpretation of terroir. And although the wine industry – especially the South African wine industry – is known for its inability to share commonality in our opinions, I think for this we have to agree that every wine person’s interpretation of terroir is the right one.


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