The Terror of Terroir

Vermi Compost, Vermi Fertilizer, Vermi Manure

I’m working on the chapter on “Terroir” for my upcoming book “I Drink On the Job” and I’m trying to figure out a simple way to explain to people that basically “terroir” means..well, uhh, sort of…poop!  Very few people I know love the smell of..well, crap, but in essence that what terroir is – it’s the stink of the earth..well sort of, it doesn’t necessarily have to stink, I mean when I think of the terroir of a runny washed rind cheese, I think of…there it is again, barnyard!  So how do I try to convey in language the natural, earthiness of terroir without getting stinky about it? 

So here’s my idea: rather than try to connect terroir with “earthiness”, I’m going to write about “placeness” or “somewhereness” – Terroir is the character of a place, the effects of taking two identical living things and bringing them up in a totally different environment.  If I plant the same Chardonnay vine, identical in every way right down to the DNA and I plant them in totally different “places” then I will come up with two totally different wines.  An analogy I use in the book is the story of two identical twins.  Let’s say I separated soon after birth two identical twin baby girls and brought them up in two different places with completely different parents, say one was brought up in Los Angeles by a wealthy family, and one was brought up in Tokyo, Japan by a lower class family.  Twenty years go by, and they happen to meet each other..would they be the same?  I mean, would they have the same personality and character, would you mistake the two of them for the same person after being around them for a few minutes?

This is very difficult to convey in simple language, because I think terroir is really a concept less scientific and way more philosophical, maybe akin to explaining “biodynamic” to someone who has never heard of it.  I’ll put some real effort into explaining the “placeness” concept, I just hope that people will read my book and realize that terroir is not only vague, but it is also difficult to detect in a wine. 

And maybe one person’s terroir is another’s terror..

Charlie “I Drink On the Job” Adler

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