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What is the deciding factor for the quality of a wine? Surely it’s not just the Oechsle degrees, the amount of sugar in the juice, which German wine law uses to distinguish quality levels. Neither can it be the sensory tasting, performed by the German Agricultural Offices, to sort the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad. There is certainly more, much more, which determines what a wine will become, what lends a natural imprint of taste, what makes it speak, what opens its soul. The answer is simply: terrior!

The term is French and literally means soil, or, figuratively, origin or home. In the case of wine, it is the emotional sensory perception of nature on the palette. It is the geology, the topography, the climate, the earth, including its depth and moisture content. In short, it is the coming together of all the natural factors which have influenced a wine’s character, everything which makes it a unique product from a unique location. Or, as the well-known author of wine, Stuart Pigott, says: Terrior is the X-factor. Additional ingredients to the grand recipe are grape variety and age of the grapevines, how deep the roots reach, what the plant finds in these depths. And, of course, there is the winemaker’s influence, his or her skills in bringing all of these parts together into a harmonious marriage, applying all of his or her experience, knowledge, skills, passion and intuition.

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