10 April 2018

Terroir — stone, soil, topography, weather, climate

In his book The World Atlas of Wine (1994 edition), author Hugh Johnson says of the village of Fleurie — just to the west and south of Moulin-à-Vent — produces wines that epitomize the spirit of Beaujolais. "The scent is strong, the wine fruity and silky, limpid; a joy to swallow." Remember the photo of that little isolated hilltop chapel I posted a few days ago? It stands on the territory of Fleurie.

The wines of neighboring Moulin-à-Vent are very different. Johnson uses the term "severity" to describe them and says the differences are "a tale of terroir writ large."

« Terroir » is that complex combination of soil, topography, weather, and climate conditions that makes one place ideal for growing grapes that produce wines of superior quality, while the same variety of grapes, grown in another place — even nearby — will give you a completely different, even mediocre wine.

Pruning the vines and burning the clippings in Beaujolais

The soil of the Moulin-à-Vent area, Hugh Johnson writes, "is rich in iron and manganese, probably but unprovably implicated in the concentration, dumbness even, of its young wines and their ability to age ten years."  Most Beaujolais wines are meant to be drunk young and don't really improve with age beyond two or three years in the bottle. Moulin-à-Vent is the exception, not the rule.

Meanwhile, let me show a couple of photos of the back, north-facing house I showed yesterday and described as a typical old Beaujolais building. Iron and manganese... Pink granite... Soil is basically crushed or eroded rock, isn't it?

The back side of the house, and I'm sure the front too, were once and still are partly are covered in what is called an enduit or crépi in French — a kind of rough-textured coating like stucco, I'd call it. It's supposed to help prevent moisture from seeping into the stone and mortar underneath. It's too bad that it completely hides the colorful stone that houses like this one are built of.


  1. I almost got to have le poulet de Bresse when I was in that area in 2000, but the restaurant where my friend intended to take me, was closed that night. I've always wondered how it would have tasted.

  2. If those grape stalks could talk, what tales would they tell?

  3. Interesting post. I am starting to "get" terroir and I don't know that there's a direct translation in English. I think that rough stucco on the house is what the British call pebble dash.


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