Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What's Terroir? Why is it important?

Courtesy of our friends at ARTISINAL PREMIUM CHEESE

The French word terroir does not have an exact English translation and has several meanings. Most literally, terroir refers to ''the soil,'' specifically the soil that gives its vegetation its unique attributes. Terroir, however, is used in the wine world to define the characteristic flavors associated with a specific region. For instance, the wines produced from the Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes in Burgundy take on unique flavors quite unlike those produced from the same grapes grown on California soil.
Cheese and wine share many similarities, this concept of terroir included. Cheeses demonstrate unique qualities when produced the same way from the same breeds in different regions. Terroir in this sense refers not only to the soil but also the water, climate, even the personality of a region. The soil may be almost identical in two adjoining counties, but slight differences in the water or climate can have a big influence on the flavors of cheeses. Moreover, the personality of the people can vary wildly from region to region, and this can define the character of the cheeses just as easily.
Terroir can also play a crucial role in cheese pairings. Often, though not as a rule, cheeses will pair well with wines, beers, or spirits birthed from the same soil and same culture. Bottom line, Terroir is an important consideration and significant aspect that helps define almost every aspect of a fine, artisanal cheese.

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