I am Terroir. I have been thinking about this for quite a while. The thought has percolated from the sun that has shone on my head, percolating through my brain, through my veins, mixing with the air that fills my lungs, and reaching my toes, where the roots have grown into the ground I stand. Terroir is not a new concept. The French had coined the term to define the conditions that help define the sense of place for vineyards and from the vines, the wines that fill your cup.
Wikipedia defines terroir as “…the set of special characteristics that the geography, geology and climate of a certain place, interacting with plant genetics, express in agricultural products such as wine, coffee, tobacco, chocolate, chili peppers, hops, agave (for making Tequila and Mezcal), tomatoes, heritage wheat, maple syrup, tea and sometimes marijuana. The concept has also crossed to other Protected Appellations of Origin (PDOs a form of geographical indication), products such as cheeses…”
The term has expanded from wine, as you can see, and I have recently read the term being applied to craft beers, which are using locally grown hops and barley.
With terroir, I think one component that you should consider are the unique bacteria, fungi, and yeasts that grow in an area. You may have heard of wild fermented wines, which are wines fermented using the indigenous yeasts in the vineyard. In addition, there are bacteria in the soil, which I have heard, can attach to the roots of the grape vines and help specific minerals enter the roots.
Now take you and I into consideration. Shouldn’t we be products of terroir as well? Many of us try to eat and drink locally; Our parents, and grand parents, probably more so than we are now. I have a community garden plot, where I grow beans, tomatoes, spinach, garlic and other vegetables. I don’t apply any herbicides or pesticides in my garden, which lets the local yeasts, bacteria, and fungi thrive. I may pull off a ripe tomato, bite into it, and enjoy it’s succulent flavour and texture, but also ingest the yeasts, bacteria and fungi, local to my garden. Just as these organisms help define place for the vineyard vines and their wines, maybe they are also making me unique to this terroir?
We are what we eat really starts to make more sense when we think about terroir and how the environment affects us. Enjoy this thought the next time, you enjoy a freshly made, local salad, served with a locally produced, wild fermented wine. And how we are all different from around the world; a product of genetics yes, but also terroir.