Late last week, NPR’s blog, The Salt ran a story about wine and terroir. “Terroir” is one of those beverage buzzwords that you might or might not have heard and might or might not know. The article, “Demystifying Terroir: Maybe It’s the Microbes Making Magic in Your Wine” offers a good background on the word and the concept as it relates to wine. The general idea is that grapes and a wine, as a result, are influenced by a number of environmental and soil factors from the slope of a hill, the angle of sunlight on the plants, the amount of rainfall, and more. The article looks more specifically that even the local fungi and microbes may have an effect on the taste of a wine, too. However, it isn’t just wine that is influenced by the oh-so-subtle-factors of plant-based alcohols–think about the soil beneath hops that contribute to a beer or the elevation of the land on which agave grows before it becomes part of a tequila.
The idea of “terroir,” though, doesn’t stop there. At the local cheese festival here in Blacksburg two weeks ago, there was a talk/tasting on wine and cheese pairings. (And, since I’m often to be found where there’s one of those ingredients, you can bet I was there for both!) It certainly wasn’t surprising that the word came up, but it was fascinating to hear how much one of the experts had to say about the terroir of cheese and how much the locality in which it was produced can effect the food itself. While there’s an argument for consistency in a food product (whatever it is), there’s an argument for individuality, local influence, and terroir of a food, too. Just something to consider next time you’re in the farmers’ market, the co-op, or at a local farm.