Terroir is a French word (pronounced Terr-wah) which has no literal translation into English. Here is my attempt at defining it:
Terroir describes all the factors that affect how a wine tastes – things that only a fellow wine geek like myself would be interested in, including soil type, climate and geography. Very simply when a wine expresses its place of origin so strongly that you couldn’t find a wine made to taste the same anywhere else in the world, you know that you must have hit upon the elusive ‘terroir’.
So why the lesson in terroir? Well today’s letter in our A-Z of Wine Terms is E for Expressiveness.
A wine that is expressive of its origin is generally better quality than one that isn’t – because it has an identity.
It’s kind of like the difference between supermarket own brand dark chocolate, and 70% cocoa Venezuelan dark chocolate. One is clearly better quality than the other, and it’s the same with wine.
In a blind tasting I will admit that I’d find it difficult to identify the difference between a bulk, branded Chardonnay from Australia and one from California. A Chablis, however I could spot from a mile away, because it is expressive of where it comes from – which makes it unique.