WorldWine Blog


The OIV and its terroir

Normally you wouldn't expect anything very good or very wise coming from a government administration or from wine officials, this rule applying not only to Germany, but to any other EU-country and, perhaps, to the entire wine world as well. This is why reading the conclusions of the recent OIV convention in Tblissi, Georgia, in which the International Wine Office tried something like an official definition of the much used and much abused french term "terroir", was a real surprise for me.

I have tried to define "terroir" on many occasions and I believe that the trigger for the definitory efforts on the OIV's part was the same that bothered me: The nonsense which normally is driveled by growers, winemakers and trades people when it comes to explain "terroir". Most often, the term is simply translated by "taste of the soil", where soil is understood in a very physical sense. As if tasting a wine were comparable to eating or smelling a handful of the soil where its grapes had grown! Thus, the very important and very meaningful term "terroir" very often becomes a simple marketing gag, which no one really understands and which applies even to the most boring industrial alcoholic beverages sold in wine bottles.

The OIV has now given a surprisingly correct definition of "terroir": "It is a concept which refers to a geographical space in which the collective knowledge of the interaction between a precisely defined physical and biological environment on the one hand and the viticultural work of man on the other confers a specific (tasteable) character to the wines coming from this same space."  *

This definition is remarkable for three main reasons: 1. It states that "terroir" is nothing purely "natural" but implies the cultural knowledge and techniques of the wine grower. 2. It includes not only the physical and chemical composition of the soil but also the microbiological life of an area or of a specific vineyard. 3. It states that the natural and the human parameters of the making of wine express themselves in a specific, recognizable taste, something which could be called the USP, the Unique Selling Proposition, of a wine.
* translated from the French version


Tag(s): OIV, Terroir

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