Terroir.A sense of place
Terroir can be very loosely translated as “a sense of place,” according to Wikipedia, “which is embodied in certain characteristic qualities, the sum of the effects that the local environment has had on the production of the product”.The concept of terroir originated and was developed in the wine industry, as wine producers and connoisseurs well know. Over the centuries, French winemakers developed the concept by observing the differences in wines from different regions, vineyards, or even different sections of the same vineyard, and they began to crystallize the concept of terroir as a way of describing the unique aspects of a place that influence and shape the wine made from it.And long before the French, the winemaking regions of the ancient world already developed a concept of different regions having the potential to create very different and distinct wines, even from the same grapes. At its core is the assumption that the land from which the grapes are grown imparts a unique quality that is specific to that growing site. The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of terroir has been a controversial topic in the wine industry. While wine experts disagree about the exact definition, particular consideration is given to the natural elements that are beyond the control of humans. Components often described as aspects of terroir include climate,soil type, topography and other plants growing in and around the vine plots.
But what about human beings?Does the place where you were born determine or affect the characteristics of you nationality – the “wine”? We often refer to particular traits of the Dutch, the French, the Germans, South Africans, etcetera. Are the characteristics of these groups (which we perceive to be distinct) part of their different histories which are (we once again assume)not beyond human control? Or does the concept of terroir have a bearing on this?Some might say this is obvious, but so used to be the “facts” that the earth is flat and that the sun orbits the earth. Nothing is obvious, as we have seen so many times in man’s history, and we probably only assume most things to be so in order for us to be able to live our daily lives.
Globalization and the concept of a “global village”, as opposed to nationalism, could possibly also have an impact as far as our views on terroir are concerned. Those who wish to actively promote a sort of global citizenship to counter the dangers of nationalistic fervour might not even want to consider that theconcept of terroir has any substance.
Finally: We often refer to “our roots” and our birthplace. Is this just by manner of speaking or does it have something to do with terroir – a sense of place? To slightly paraphrase the remarks in the introductory paragraph about terroir in the wine industry: The amount of influence and the scope that falls under the description of terroir has been a controversial topic in the “human industry”, and while experts disagree about the exact definition, particular consideration is given to the natural elements that are beyond the control of humans. With this Terroir exhibition we have a number of artists delivering paintings on the topic.