The author investigates the applicability of the word ““terroir”” to chocolate. As a Master of Wine, wine journalist, and wine educator, the author has tried to understand how ““terroir,”” the environmental and human factors associated with growing vines and making wine, impacts the flavor of wine. Comparing and contrasting viticulture and winemaking to cacao farming and chocolate manufacture, the author analyzes to what degree terroir could be a concept that informs chocolate appreciation. He notes that the great distances between cacao farms and factories encourage the perception of cacao and chocolate as commodities. He observes that the varietal and origin nomenclature of cacao can be at worst misleading and generally lacks clarity and precision. He shows how the many steps that transform cacao into chocolate threaten the expression of terroir in the final product. Yet he acknowledges that there could be a basis for use of the word in the world of cacao and chocolate.
Alsace vineyards are complex in subsoil type. The author proposes that the characteristics of the subsoil are the most indelible aspect of terroir . Many Alsace wine producers use sustainable, biologic, and biodynamic farming practices in order to best transfer flavors that could be attributed to subsoil type. Both the traditional and modern vinification and maturation methods of Alsace producers interfere minimally with the transfer of subsoil flavor to wine flavor. Hence, Alsace wine is the ideal locus to sense and understand ““terroir”” in wine. The author examines whether and how subsoil flavor can be sensed in wine flavor. In particular, he assesses what could account for ““mineral”” smells and tastes in wine. Most Alsace wines are composed of one grape variety. Until recently all Grand Cru wines had to be composed of only one of the four varietals: Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, and Muscat d'Alsace. Recent changes in wine legislation allow other vine varieties or blends of varieties in Grand Cru wines. The author examines the relationship of these legal changes to the terroir issue and to the marketability of Alsace wine. The author substantiates his theses by comparing and contrasting the opinions of various Alsace winemakers whom he interviewed in November of 2007.