The Future of French Wine ~ Terroir Tuesday

Terroir Tuesday . . . where wine & land meet

The Future of French Wine: Overcoming ‘Terroirisme’ and Stagnation

If there is a product whose provenance consumers care about, it is wine. There are two methods of classifying wine, cépage and terroir. The cépage (varietals) method identifies the wine by the type of grape used in its production. In contrast, the terroir (land-based) method highlights the geographical origin of the wine, its region-specific taste and the winemaker’s skill.

Traditionally, in France, wine is classified by its terroir. This classification emerged over the centuries as villages developed specific approaches to winemaking, resulting in regionally unique wines. Consequently, sophisticated French consumers developed a rich understanding of these regions, which enabled them to identify the nuances between wines and the geographic impact on their flavors. As viticulture developed in the New World — in countries and cultures that did not traditionally consume wine — cépage emerged as the principal means of differentiating and marketing wines. Initially this approach sought to overcome the lack of traditional terroirs in the New World. However, in the last 50 years, it has emerged as the dominant marketing trend in the wine industry. In fact, the industry consensus is that the average consumer in 2012 is more likely to select his wine based on its cépage and the brand that the winemaker has developed than on the wine’s terroir.

In defiance of marketing trends in the wine industry, many French winemakers continue to identify and market their wine based on terroir.This desire to perpetuate tradition maintains a degree of complexity in understanding French wine, limiting its accessibility to new consumers and hindering sales. Rather than looking to adapt, many French winemakers and critics revert to terroirisme and overemphasize the importance of terroir in defining wine. This approach does not seek to make good wine, but rather emphasizes the traditional aspects of geographically centered wine production, ignoring modern trends.


Love talking terroir or know someone who does? How about a wine map – makes a great gift!

Maps are printed on high quality paper, many of our maps have the option of being printed on canvas – an interesting old world option. Please see more information for each product if the canvas option is available.

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