“Terroir” is one of those seemingly mythical words that a winemaker or vigneron often uses to magically sum up why their wine has a particularly nice and different taste! In reality every vineyard, orchard, garden vegetable patch has its own unique terroir!
Quite simply terroir is the unique combination of geology, geography, climate and human technique that defines a particular piece of land with a certain soil, orientation, slope, drainage, topography, fertility, microclimate etc. If a particular plant, fruit, vegetable, cereal grows optimally in a certain spot, then it is “well suited to that terroir”.
When winemakers say or write about how well a wine expresses its terroir, what they mean is that together with their vigneron, they have found the optimum or best way to grow grapes and produce wine in that specific location. Every terroir will yield a different tasting wine, even if the same grape variety is used, although the differences can quite often be minimised with modern winemaking techniques.
And of course some soils, climates and geographies are much better suited to certain fruits than others. Vines don’t enjoy tropical conditions much but bananas do a lot better!