From its humble origins to protected status, semantics have played a significant role in commonly held beliefs about terroir. A French word meaning land or soil, terroir originated from the Medieval Latin word terra (land) and terratorium (territory). The French phrase “goût de terroir,” or taste of the soil, originally implied a poorly made wine, one considered to be flawed or unripe.
Early literary references by the Cistercian monks connect the land to the expression and quality of wines they cultivated in Burgundy, and later accounts dating to the 17th century do the same for Bordeaux. But it was the advent of the French appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) system governing wine in 1935 that marked the turning point for terroir.
The AOC system, and those modeled after it, was largely founded on terroir and based on climate and soil factors that vary considerably in large AOCs. Created to guarantee the source and, to some degree, the quality of a wine made from a protected designated origin, it was through the wide-scale adoption of AOCs between the 1950s and 1970s that the word “terroir” began to take on more positive associations.
“The concept of terroir can be traced back into Roman times, but it really started to develop in the wine industry and, particularly, in scientific and marketing literature, in the late 1980s,” says Mike Trought, principal scientist, plant and food research, associate professor at Lincoln University in Canterbury, New Zealand. Trought references the Web of Science database in attributing the use of the word terroir and its adoption as a concept in science as being largely promoted by French researchers as well as soil scientist, Professor Gérard Seguin, at the University of Bordeaux in particular. Read more here – inhotpursuitofterroir2017_r1