terroir definition for wine

Definition of Terroir in Wine – Day 16

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The definition of terroir in wine is all about that illusive concept that the soil and climate where grapes were grown can influence aromas and flavors.

In this episode, we get romantic about how the scent and flavor memories associated with your favorite wines can transport you back to that place. Thanks, Terroir!

WATCH on Youtube.

Wine of the Day

Vincent Mothe Chablis 2018
Find a Chablis on Wine.Com


Chalk, matches, gravel

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Drink wine along with me, Annie, and learn to engage all of your senses in a powerful new way. SUBSCRIBE to the channel to follow along.

Stay updated when you enroll in DiVino Wine School. You’ll have full access to class notes from every episode available to download directly from our site.

For a flashback lesson on Terroir, check out this old video from 2008!


Definition of Terroir in Wine Video Transcript


(HOOK) Hi everyone!  

Who’s ready for vacation? Stay right here because today we are talking about TERROIR AND how winetasting can take you to a land far far away…

TITLE/SCREEN+ Music: 21 Days to Wine

TITLE/SCREEN: Day 16 – The Definition of Terroir in Wine

Welcome back to DiVino Wine School.  I’m Annie, your virtual sommelier. And today is DAY 16 –  all about Terroir. 

 I wasn’t kidding about vacation.  Wine tasting might be the next best thing to teleporting. Once you learn how to do it.

Besides the fact that wine tasting already exists and teleporting is still fantasy (come on science. I’d take teleporting over cell phones any day.

But seriously It’s relatively inexpensive to get that Tres chic French  feeling by just opening a bottle of Chablis. Shall we? (walk off). Bon voyage?

(walk on)


What I’m talking about is Terroir.

Old school wine lovers (like me) are obsessed with the concept of Terroir.

It’s also a big difference between old world and new world wines, which we will talk in the next episode, So subscribe and enroll to get the head’s up. Link is down there.

TITLE/SCREEN: Subscribe and enroll (arrow)

As usual, you can start tasting at any time if you brought some wine along.

Those of you who are enrolled might have a Chablis, like me. Either way, let me know in the comments what you tasted today!

The scent of the day is chalk.  I also brought back that gravel, and a box of matches. At DiVino Wine School we play with fire. (strike one).


(Blowing out match)

Believe it or not, it took me some time to find these things.  So if you need to press pause and hit your school supplies aisle, I’ll wait. I have this Chablis to keep me company.  What did you bring today? Let me know in the comments.

TITLE/SCREEN: Chablis (wine name. Annie will fill in).

The word Terroir comes from one single French word, which in English translates to three words with different meanings: Land, Terrain, and Soil.  

TITLE/SCREEN: Land, Terrain, and Soil.  

Let’s talk about land.  Think of all the anthems (sing it maybe) This land is your land, this land is my land. Or home of free, land of the brave.

TITLE/SCREEN: Land belongs to you and means something to you. It is also a specific location.

For example, we have some land, East of the river. Or our ancestors have lived on this land for centuries. How many of you can actually say that? Any indigenous American wine drinkers out there?

TITLE/SCREEN: Terrain refers to physical components and topography.

Terrain refers to physical components, like rocky terrain, or a hilly terrain. You know those cool topographical maps that look 3D? That’s terrain.

TITLE/SCREEN: SOIL is the actual dirt.

Then there is soil itself, which we might describe as fertile, or mineral-rich, or arid and sandy or rocky.

The concept of terroir in winetasting is that all of these natural elements influence the characteristics of the wine.

TITLE/SCREEN: Wine begins in the vineyard.

When you hear someone say, wine begins in the vineyard, this is terroir.

When a wine is described as an island wine, as having coastal influence, or distinctive alpine qualities. That is terroir.

TITLE/SCREEN: Terroir is the life story of your wine, from grape to glass.

It is the life story of your wine, from grape to glass. Imagine yourself growing up.

What and who were the influences that made you who you are today?  

TITLE/SCREEN: Tell me a story.

This is great place to stop, drink some wine and tell some stories. But since we have a lesson to finish and a beautiful Chablis to taste, tell me in the comments about an event in your past that made you who you are today.

TITLE/SCREEN: The winemaker is a storyteller too.

The winemaker is part of the process too, she is the nurture to the nature of terroir.  What she does in the winery can accentuate the natural qualities of the grape and where it came from, or radically alter them.

Does that make sense?

If not, please don’t be shy. I’m here to answer questions. Raise your hand, than lower it and type your question in the comments.

TITLE/SCREEN: Terroir is romantic.

Terroir is romantic. Not flowers and candles romantic.

More like literary romanticism.  What does that mean?  You didn’t sign up for English class. I know, but hear me out. And feel free to start tasting. I could ramble on about this for hours, so I told my camera guy to stop me if I go too long.  Got that Bobby?

TITLE/SCREEN: Literary romanticism is a rebellion against reason and science, a return to emotion and nature. Even magic.

Literary romanticism is a rebellion against reason and science, a return to emotion and nature. Even magic.

There is very little hard evidence that limestone soil is guaranteed to produce mineral notes, or that wines made from grapes grown on the slopes of an active volcano will have a powerful sulfur scent. 

And yet they exist. Some wines are so famous for what we call “distinctive terroir,” scientific facts don’t matter because the sensory experience is so extraordinary. Light a match to get an idea of what I’m talking about.  (light match).  See if you smell any of that flinty note in your wine.

There is a French Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley called Pouilly-Fumé.  

TITLE/SCREEN: Pouilly-Fumé. 

Even the name, “fumé” brings to mind smoke, and this wine has a crazy gun powder, flinty aroma that you really need to smell to believe.

The soil there is very similar to the soil in Chablis, where our wine is from.

Still with me?  It’s hard to spend much time on the color, because this wine smells so good!  

b-roll, pouring wine.  TITLE/SCREEN: LOOK

This wine has never had any oak barrel aging. It’s luminous, light golden yellow.


 The nose is packed with There’s green apple, fresh pear and razor- sharp lemon, along with this polished smoky stone. Can you smell chalk?  


This wine tastes and feels  as bright as it looks. The finish is long mouth-watering. Remember that mineral finish from DAY 13?  (Good reason to enroll, just saying! You know where that link it…)

So this combination of aromas, intense crispness on the palate and long mineral finish is 100% distinctive to this wine. It’s tradition.

TITLE/SCREEN: Terroir is tradition.

Another aspect of terroir is tradition.  Notice the appellation and classification on the label: AOC. Appellation Chablis Controlée.

TITLE/SCREEN: AOC = Appellation Chablis Controlée

It matters because it makes us part of the story.  Yes, you and me.

Wine is the multisensory meeting of man and nature, and archeology tells us that humans have been making wine for at least 6000 years, sometimes on the same land for centuries.

TITLE/SCREEN: Humans have been making wine for at least 6000 years.

The European wine labeling system – the AOC or DOC that you see here [show label]  –  takes into account how certain wines have been made historically.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Appellation can refer to:

Grape Varieties

Aging Techniques

Geographical Area


This includes the specific grape varieties, aging techniques, and the very limited growing area, so that the geological influences remain the same year after year and the wine tastes as it traditionally does.

When you drink a Chianti Classico for example, which has been made in the same area with the same Sangiovese grape since the 1300s, you are literally drinking history.

TITLE/SCREEN:  You are literally drinking history.

You are joining a long tradition and experiencing the same – not identical, but probably very similar flavors as they did way back in the day, which I think is pretty  cool.

This wine for example, Chablis, is 100% Chardonnay, from the northernmost part of Burgundy France, where it has been growing since the 13th century.  The soil type, called Kimeridge is clay, layered in limestone and fossilized oyster shells!

TITLE/SCREEN:  Kimmeridgian Soil

So if you are getting a little sea breeze, something marine…. You are not crazy.  You just took an olfactory beach vacation.

Add to all this scent memory, which I have been talking about from day one – and a simple glass of wine is the next best thing to a time machine.

Chardonnay from Chablis is almost always incredibly crisp, contains that special chalky note, and has a long, mouth-watering finish.

Top shelf Chablis, Premier Cru and Grand Cru from healthy years can ages for decades.

TITLE/SCREEN:  Do you notice this in the wine? Tell me in the comments.

TITLE/SCREEN:  The magic of terroir

To sum it up: When a wine is reflective of the place where it was made, and you can re-live that sensory experience with every sip, that is the magic of terroir.

Don’t forget to subscribe and enroll!

See you next time. I will be in France if anyone needs me…   (walk off) Bon Voyage!

END TITLE/SCREEN: Wine is a language. Learn how to speak it.

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