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Preceding the subject

Terroir

By Terroir I understand the set of influences exerted in the production process that will determine the quality of the product at the moment of tasting. Thus, this concept encompasses the type of soil where the vines are planted; weather conditions to which it was subject during the year; the work done by the field teams throughout the process of transformation of grapes into wine; temperatures to which the wine has been subjected and the time at which each operation was performed in the production process. There are several interpretations and philosophies around this concept, but it is easy to see that, as the influence of climatic agents is directly linked to the final quality of the product, the same is true regarding the work of each person and the link between the physical space and the quality of its product. This description of physical space is a concept of Terroir pursued to detail, following the example of Burgundy, one of the regions where I learned the most on the level of appreciation of their own know-how.

This region is valued as a different region from all others around the world for presenting a large variety of physically delimited land to protect and separate their Terroir from its neighbours. It is understood by Clos (Figure No. 6) a physical boundary made by walls that enclose a property, allowing the recovery of this land and of each vine base, due to its uniqueness.

The Burgundy region has little array of grape varieties, and the best known are the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; however, the recovery of small pieces of land, allowing to identify the origin of each wine through a Clos denomination was a beneficial way of interpreting the terroir and of assigning it with a value.

The most recent surprise I had in a wine event took place during the tasting of Azorean wines; I had the rare opportunity to enjoy these fantastic wines produced in such heroic viticulture conditions (region appointed as UNESCO World Heritage Site). In this wine tasting, the concept of Terroir was expressed by the different characteristics that several islands gave to their wines. For me it was surprising to find this well-preserved and delimited wealth in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the example that I look for in Portugal to demonstrate that there is wealth in the vineyards of our country. In this Azorean wine tasting I tasted exclusive grape varieties of those islands, corrals and from this terroir. Likewise the different Terroir's that gave rise to our grape varieties have to be well defined and communication to global consumers on this site will have to clarify the real value of the product they are consuming.

So there is a huge work to be done in the preservation and maintenance of all grape varieties that we have inherited. We must recover the almost extinct grape varieties and seek to reintroduce them in extensive farming practised in modern viticulture and improve its quality. The most important step may be awarded when a diversity of communication strategy of national grape varieties is to be created, and when professionals are prepared to assist the national and international consumers to value the Portuguese wines.

Although the concept of Terroir originates from France, it is transversal to the production of other agricultural products relating their qualities to the influences that they suffered during their production process. The following example refers to wine but there are similar interpretations into other national agricultural products. "We have a blessed country, our fruits are really tasty!", thus stated António Silvestre Ferreira in a lecture on the future of exports of agricultural products in Portugal on November 20th 2013, in Évora (Portugal).

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