Terroir for Viniculture
The terroir of a wine cultivation area significantly influences the possibility of whether high quality wine can be created in the first place. It basically determines which grape varieties can be planted and also defines the taste characteristics of the winery. One and the same grape variety can deliver different results when planted in different terroirs - from the yield to the colour up to the flavour.
Terroir is a collective term for aspects such as composition of the soil, general location, present climate as well as microclimate. Especially recently, wine enthusiasts have said that a wine ‘mirrors its terroir’. This is not to be confused with the mineral notes a wine can feature; rather, it means that the particular vines were able to absorb nutrients and ripen unhindered. This is how a vine can reach its full potential and simultaneously take in certain characteristics of the terroir, such as especially pronounced aromas or a very fruity maturity.
Terroir in South Africa and Europe
In the old countries in Europe, the terroir is immensely important which leads to almost religious wars about the various terroirs. There are lovers of Rhône Blends and such that swear on Bordeaux wines. The area surrounding Champagne has become a brand and the term is legally protected; Tuscan wines or the ones from Moselle or Saale also have their own character. In principle, these areas are nothing more but terroir terms that make for unique flavours.
It is very difficult to find rules for the perfect terroir considering the complex interaction; they simply do not exist. There are some basic criteria though a terroir has to meet; besides, experience is important in rating a location. For example, you can look which plot has created especially good red wine, which one was suitable for a crisp white wine, or where noble rot has created the best dessert wine.
In South Africa, the terroir generally plays a role on a national level. Most wineries are in close proximity to one another which makes distinguishing them difficult. South Africa is also considered a country of continuous wine cultivation; the standard is generally on a constant level as the terroir and especially the climate are less unsettled than in continental Europe. In South Africa, wineries mainly differentiate from each other through the selection of grape varieties. Yet it is equally important for both vintner and wine lover to know what a good terroir has to offer.