Grape growers, winemakers, wine writers, and connoisseurs to describe the notion of “somewhereness”, i.e specific place with special attributes, the French term use terroir.
It refers geographically to the soil type, prevailing climate, and aspect of the vineyard, incline, and altitude.
These conditions and human husbanding of vines also dictate the grape variety most suitable.
Ultimately time and careful observation prove the most (economically and taste wise) variety for the terroir. This decision validates terroir.
Pinot noir and chardonnay yield unmistakable wines in Burgundy; Cote de Beaune excels in chardonnay, and pinot noir in Cote de Nuits. Each vineyard yields a somewhat different, and better, or lesser tasting wine which determines the classification of the vineyard, i.e. Grand cru, premier cru, appellation village, and ordinary.
Pinto noir planted in Oregon, Otago, Marlborough, Nelson, Tasmania, Mornington Peninsula, Coastal Sonoma County, Carneros, Patagonia, or Ontario, look and taste different because of the terroir, yields, and winemaking techniques.
Many claim that New World wine producing countries i.e all outside of continental Europe and the Caucasus region, cannot produce the same wine, but forget that New World winemakers use centuries worth of know-how from Europe, and combine it with home-grown technology of mechanical engineering, computers, analysis, all of which allow them to achieve respectable results, sometimes even beating world-famous brands from Bordeaux, or Burgundy in blind tastings as was proven in 1976, and as recently as 2012.
The savvy grower finds the best terroir for viticulture first, and then selects the variety best suited. This will result in a distinct wine reflecting `somewhereness`.
An Oregon pinot noir will display similar aromatic and flavour profiles of a Burgundy pinot noir, but anyone who knows anything about this grape variety will recognize it as such.
An Otago, New Zealand, grown pinot noir is definitely much darker in colour than its Burgundy counterpart, and higher in alcohol, but ultimately easily identified as a pinot noir by even a novice.
Cabernet sauvignon is Bordeaux’s the dominant grape variety on the Left Bank of the Gironde Estuary, and yields completely different wines, as compared to Napa valley, or South Asutralia’s Barossa valley, but an experienced taster as the variety ultimately easily identifies all.
The same is true for Rhineriesling planted on vineyards along the mighty Rhine River, and lovely Mosel and elsewhere in the world i.e. Washington State, and South Australia’s Clare Valley.
Hungarian winemakers recognized the importance of terroir in the Tokaj region as early as 12th century A.D and classified vineyards. The same happened in Portugal in the 18th century under the auspices of Marques de Pombal, at the time the prime minister of the country, for the Douro Valley where the port wine originates.
The French government established and instituted an extensive appellation system at the beginning of the 20th century and popularized it world wide for marketing reasons. Since then most wine producing countries designed and implemented similar systems i.e AVA (American Viticultural Area), VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance), Canada, D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controlata), Italy, D.O. (Denominacion Origen), Spain, just to name a few.