By Suzanne Corbett
(This is part 1 of our series on the "terroir" of
Missouri's wine regions.
Look for part 2 coming soon.)
Terroir is a scary looking word. Yet, take a closer look. Terroir
is actually a warm, fuzzy word. Just consider its general
translation: a sense of place. In culinary terms, terroir describes
an area’s geography, climate and social features, especially
those associated with viticulture.
Perhaps James E. Wilson defined terroir best in his 1998 book
of the same name:
The true concept (terroir) is not easily grasped but includes
physical elements of the measurable ecosystem. There is an additional
dimension -- the spiritual aspect that recognizes the joys, the
heartbreaks, the pride, the sweat and the frustration of its history.
From these elements, weather, soil and regional agriculture,
is where you’ll find the heart of terroir, especially for vintners.
Yet, "sense of place" transcends mere geography. Terroir
embraces cultural and historical elements of an area that contributes
to both its wine and food production. Call it regional uniqueness,
ripe for promotional picking and present in locations throughout
Missouri’s wine regions.
For example, consider Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.
Missouri University sociology professor Elizabeth Barham has established
the Missouri Regional
Cuisines Project, whose goal is to promote
and educate consumers about the concept of Missouri terroir. The
program also encourages and helps Missouri winemakers, farmers
and chefs develop a regional awareness of their products. The Ste.
Genevieve region was selected as the program's pilot area to launch
the regional cuisines project because of its flourishing wine industry.
Located in the Mississippi River Hills, Ste.
wineries offer the perfect combination defining terroir. First,
look at its location. Ste. Genevieve is farther south than Missouri’s
older wine districts, Augusta and Hermann. As a result, its climate
stays a little warmer, a factor that affects the amount of natural
sugars present in the grapes. Its soil is also rocky, providing
a difference in drainage to its vines, which again can affect wine
flavor and finish.
These two elements alone are enough to create
excitement among wine makers. So it's no surprise wine was chosen
as the signature product of the Ste. Genevieve region that has
led the push to establish its own designated appellation. Historically
Ste. Genevieve was French, and it still practices its French traditions.
As a result, its wine and food also process a slight French accent.
Ste. Genevieve’s wine culture, food and area history – its
terroir – contributes substantially to the region. Terroir
connects both lifestyle and economy in this southeast Missouri
region, a connection that fosters further development of the
terroir tradition where wine and food products are marketed as
local specialties while promoting the area as an agri-tourist destination.
Today Ste. Genevieve is poised as a leader in the Missouri terroir
movement. Its success drives the Regional Cuisine Project forward
to continue expansion of the program; working toward future federal
and state designations of terroir – label of origins and
“Each of Missouri’s wine regions offers a unique mix
that in itself defines terroir,” said Jim Anderson, Executive
Director of Missouri’s Wine and Grape Board. “What
better way to explain terroir than through our wine. After all,
both wine and food are products of an area’s soil and climate
and flavored with the history and culture where it's produced.”
Subtle nuances found in indigenous ingredients and flavors, the
essence of terroir is what we celebrate. Viva la difference!
Next: Part 2 is coming soon!
In culinary terms, "terroir" describes an area’s
geography, climate and social features, especially those associated