Terroir (in English, pronounced roughly tare-wah) is the concept that the taste and characteristics of a wine are partly determined by where and how the grapes were grown. The idea is that grapes as they grow and ripen experience different conditions that affect the wines made from them.
Conditions affecting grapes include the amount and frequency of rain, elevation, the slope of the land. the angle of the grapes to sunlight, the intensity of sunlight (cloudy areas get less sun, for example), the daily range of temperature from cool to warm, and the composition of the soil.
For example, wine grapes growing in warm areas produce more natural sugar, which translates into a higher alcohol percentage after the sugars ferment. Grapes from cooler areas have less sugar and therefore lower alcohol content. Add in the different varieties of grapes, and taste becomes very complicated to account for.
It is unclear if different kinds of soils affect the taste of wine, but it’s intensely argued over, and the consensus is that yes, it affects taste. It’s also unclear if the same variety of grapes grown in differing environmental conditions produces notable differences in taste of the wine made from them.
Terroir is also a marketing tool: wines that allegedly have unique flavors because of terroir command higher prices.
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