The definition of Terroir according to the National Institute of Appellation d'Origine in France has evolved substantially quite recently. A terroir is now “a particular geographical area where a production draws its originality directly from the specificities of its production area. A delimited space in which a human community builds collective production know-how over the course of its history, the terroir is based on a system of interactions between a physical and biological environment, and a set of human factors. Therein lies the originality and typicality of the product.” It is the notion of terroir that underpins the concept of Appellations of Origin. The vain clause "local, local and constant uses" present in the law of May 6, 1909, ossified the appellations and denied the developments known throughout history under the influence of socio-cultural developments and technical knowledge of the 'Man ; it has now disappeared and we can rejoice about it. The terroir must be embraced from all angles. There is a whole agronomic world, of researchers, technicians, wine growers, who are concerned with the concept of terroir to the point of being sucked into easy environmental determinism. On the other hand, determinism can also be social or cultural, that is to say giving exaggerated preponderance to economic, historical and sociological factors. These two worlds operate in parallel, often ignoring each other, hence the difficulties of admitting an all-encompassing reasoning, a systemic theory of terroirs, an attempt at modeling bringing together as many criteria as possible to make a representation of reality acceptable 1. Sometimes we are even content to refuse the concept in its naturalistic dimension with a simple backhand, as H. Enjalbert writes 2 regarding the role of history and economics in the formation of the Bordeaux vineyard and more specifically the weight of the tastes of Northern European consumers at a certain time: “It is curious that this trait has never been brought out. However, it was the opportunity, for those who affirm the primacy of man over natural environments, to demonstrate that quality viticulture, as we see it born at the end of the 18th century, appeared due to the fact human enterprises and not because of a determinism based on the capabilities of the terroirs. This trait should not mislead us about the vision of H. Enjalbert, frankly in line with R. Dion unlike R. Pijassou 3. He is in fact one of the geographers who were pioneers in wine geography by giving “terroir soil” a measured place. It shows how we can move from the production of good wines to great wines by combining in the final quality of the wine the terroir with its agronomic components, the measure of the winegrowers with the use of fertilizers, the rigor of the cellar masters, the professionalism of trading. It even stands out in a visionary way in an era, the 1970s, when technology, from the vineyard to the cellar, was often presented as stronger than nature. 1 Éric ROUVELLAC The terroir, an attempt at geographical reflection through viticulture. Geography. University of Limoges, 2013. fftel-00933444f 2 ENJALBERT H. (1983), The grands crus of Saint-Emilion Pomerol in France, ed. Bordas Bardi, 634 p 3 Éric ROUVELLAC The terroir, an essay on geographical reflection through viticulture. Geography. University of Limoges, 2013. fftel-00933444f The concept of terroir has been revisited by viticulture in recent decades and continues its momentum in the New World which is inspired, as much as it is imitated, by the Old World. This notion is encompassing enough to summarize an alchemy between a territory, an economy and a society which gives a characteristic, heritage, emblematic product, identity perhaps even of a portion of territory. Even to the point that sometimes some feel the need to evacuate the cultural vision, accused of disavowing the terroir: "For the historian the terroir is a composite where social and economic criteria mix with those of physical geography and geology to determine the establishment of a particular agriculture. This vision of terroir, particularly well illustrated for wine by the work of M. Lachiver (1972) and R. Dion (1959), is not incompatible with that of the unity of terroir that we propose. They complement each other perfectly provided that we do not deny the notion of natural terroir unity and do not ignore the obligatory pre-eminence of terroir criteria which arise from their sustainability. Indeed, if social economic criteria explain why this or that vineyard developed in a particular place rather than in another, they are not of such durability that the delimitation expert must consider them as determining factors to establish a limit of a new name or modify an old one. Forgetting the sustainability of the natural environment on socio-economic or intangible facts can only be detrimental to the cause of the terroir and that of designations of origin. » 4. This ignorance between “agronomists” and “culturalists” in the characteristics of famous vineyards to the point of caricature. Thus the Burgundians go so far as to claim that the quality of the wine is only due to the meeting between a soil, which they confuse with the terroir, and a grape variety, denying the winegrower, by hiding behind the very pedological classification wines from the region. While without calling into question the characteristics of the soils and exposures of the Burgundian slopes, the historian and the geographer quickly realize that the construction of the appellations of this area and their hierarchy are essentially based on the distance which separates them from the places of decision. , such as trading, namely Beaune for the Côte of the same name, or Dijon for the Côte de Nuits 5. Agronomic and microclimatic considerations only come into play afterwards, to establish an existing historical and economic situation. Indeed, if the slope, the altitude, the exposure, the geology of the municipalities of these appellations are crossed, these criteria do not corroborate their limits. Environmental data does not make it possible to distinguish the Côte de Nuits from the Côte de Beaune 6. We find these “inconsistencies” everywhere, even where the geo-pedological justification is the most asserted (Burgundy, Alsace, Cognac…to name but a few). French appellations). But then why qualify certain viticultural practices as artificial and accept others that could equally be described in the same way? 4 LAVILLE P. (1993), Units of natural terroir and terroir. A necessary distinction to restore more coherence to the designation of origin system.
Bulletin of the International Organization of Vine and Wine, n° 745-746, 227-251. 5 Eric ROUVELLAC
The terroir, an attempt at geographical reflection through viticulture. Geography. University of Limoges, 2013. fftel-00933444f 6 COMBAUD A. (2008), Viticultural terroirs of the Côte-d'Or.
Physical and historical characterization using a geographic information system. Doctoral thesis in geology, University of Burgundy, Dijon, 318 p. Irrigation is a delicate subject because it would profoundly “artificialize” the Land. However, the establishment of vineyards in regions where the rainfall deficit is chronic condemns this practice. From then on, the supply of water becomes an integral part of the definition of local Terroir. The dog bites its tail... In other regions, the evolution of the climate could lead to this same adaptation in the medium or long term... But we should not, knowing that this loophole exists, not prioritize situations above all allowing the vine to develop correctly without this “artifice”. The organizations managing geographical denominations display schizophrenic behavior on this subject... We will not use irrigation in our vineyard because we have chosen to only establish vineyards on terroirs that are sufficiently adapted and resilient in the event of a period of drought; “incidentally” our name prohibits it anyway. But even if it authorized it, certain Bordeaux appellations have deviated from this rule in 2022, we would not practice it. Water constraints are not a problem for the production of quality wines, on the contrary it is essential! Soils with moderately low water reserves are the most qualitative. The climatic conditions of around sixty vintages in Bordeaux show that all the dry years correspond to good or very good vintages for the production of red wine: 1945, 1947, 1949, 1961, 1982, 1989, 1990, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2016, 2020, 2022…This result was expected. More surprisingly, the same observation is made for the Rhône valley, where the climate is always drier than in Bordeaux. Would global warming be favorable to the production of great vintages of reds, but also whites? Obviously yes, for the moment and for the moment only, that is the problem...What will be the limit beyond which these changes will become, on the contrary, strongly negative? The border unfortunately seems quite thin to me. If summer drought, normally absent in a temperate oceanic climate, were to become systematized and especially accentuated in the future due to long-term climate change, it will of course be necessary to revise this position, which is not dogmatic. This adaptation will require a profound revision of the method of wine production with the need for facilities which are currently non-existent in our region. But we should never force the cultivation of vines into an environment that has become unsuitable for it! Let us therefore hope never to reach this extreme, but let us also be resolutely ready to consider it if necessary. The subject of “artificialization” is not the most important in any case. If irrigation “artificializes” the Land, what should we think of anti-frost methods? These processes (candles, wind turbine, heating wind turbine, gas cannon, electric heating, etc.) with very high energy expenditure, profoundly modify the microclimate of the place at a given moment. They make it possible to cultivate vines all over the world in places where its production, if not its very existence, would be annihilated every year. However, this poses no problem for the Champagne or Burgundian Terroirs apparently to use these techniques every year and we understand them; The installation of anti-hail nets or the installation of cloud seeding techniques (silver salts or hygroscopic salts), or the fragmentation of condensation nuclei using deflagration cannons, also objectively represent tools for manipulating the climate. extremely powerful local. However, they are increasingly popular and used given the increase in violent storm episodes undoubtedly linked to global climate change; The installation of anti-freeze sails or anti-rain tarpaulins on the ground before harvest earned the wrath of the INAO by forcing well-intentioned producers to downgrade their harvest to table wine because they would have voluntarily “altered the original characteristics of the terroir and the vintage”….Ridiculousness does not kill, unfortunately, but these techniques, self-limiting given their cost and their practical implementation, could still prove useful in certain vintages; Etc… In Agro-Synergy, all these “artificializing” practices need not be prohibited if they effectively allow a producer to save or quantitatively and qualitatively improve his harvest, if and only if, their implementation does not definitively alter the “perennial natural criteria” which must remain, if not exclusive criteria, fundamental criteria for the definition and exploitation of a Terroir.