There have been many definitions given to the word "terroir", the most common of which is "place". But this definition overly simplifies an infinitely important word when referring to wine. There is, as most of you know, microclimates that may change dramatically from short distances such as miles, yards, and even feet and inches. Terroir goes beyond the vineyard and into the winery. This is often forgotten or omitted by choice when speaking the holy word terroir. Place is also where you make your wine. As winemakers, with all the choices in the vineyard and the winery, we still have to deal with outside forces. As a minimalist (those that stay out of the way of the fruit as much as one can), I believe some things cannot be controlled. M.N. or Mother Nature, for the most part, is a greater factor than we are, not just in the vineyard but again in the winery. For all the choices we make, a winery still has what's commonly called a "house style".
How does that happen? First and foremost, the region has a style, a signature of its own, and a moniker that identifies it. You have heard of Rutherford in Napa known for its "dust" or maybe the spices of Vosne Romanee in Burgundy, just to name a few.
Then there's the vineyard which has its own characteristic, caused by soil, root stock and clonal selection, not to mention farming techniques. And after all of that, you bring the fruit into your "place" and it takes on a life of its own. Your choice of yeast (native or cultivated), sulfur, nitrogen, barrels, etc, all influence your outcome. There are many other factors such as yields, pressing pressures, length and temperature of fermentations, but let's get to the point. In addition, the air within the winery, saturated with airborne micro substances such as yeast, will influence your wine as much as anything else. Yes, there is house style, and to not acknowledge that would be akin to believing the world is flat!
This theory was proved long ago by the master himself, Henri Jayer. The short of it is he had two of his former students who now worked on their own, exchange fruit. One was in Gevery Chambertin, and one from Vosne Romanee. The wine was handled in the same manner as all others in their respective wineries. The end result was the Gevery Chambertin fruit that was fermented in Vosne tasted like Vosne, and the Vosne fruit fermented in Gevery tasted like Gevery.
So, terroir is important, but not just the region, village, or vineyard but also the winery where it is ultimately fermented and aged.
Thanks for listening.