Terroir, terroir. Perhaps the most overused word in conversing and writing about wine, bandied about with an abandon which has led to it having lost almost any real meaning. A word which I was determined to avoid–along with red wine stains on my shirt–during this past month of blogging about Umbria and her wines; alas, I was ultimately unsuccessful at both these endeavors.
Just as a splotch of Sangiovese will inevitably show up sooner or later during five full days of wine tastings, so will the word terroir in a region in which this slippery concept of “sense of place”—meaning, of course, geography, geology, and climate, but also that more elusive context of history, culture, and human touch—is so prominent in the wines: how they are made, how they are marketed, how they are paired.
It is difficult, if not impossible, to fully understand or appreciate Umbrian wines outside the backdrop of its terroir. These wines are the essence of a region–and its people–bottled, and nowhere is this more evident than in the wines of Orvieto. A sip of this and you taste…well, I’ll just show you: