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Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

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Terroir is a French word (from terre, earth or soil) that was first introduced to discussions about taste by winemakers in late 19th-century France. As Rachel Laudan (2004) explains, the French, forced by the scourge of phylloxera to graft their dying vines onto rudely healthy American stock, sought to distinguish their wine by the place, not the plant, whence it came. And not just the place but primarily the soil.

Of course the linking of place and wine, or even food, has been a constant since the pharaohs labelled their casks with the date and origin of their contents, or since archestratus wrote his travelogue of a poem about seeking out the best produce in the best place. But the winemakers’ claims were more precise, and more far-reaching once the French system of Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée was introduced in the first quarter of the 20th century.