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Location, Location, Location: Understanding Terroir

You’ve heard the word tossed around among your wine-savvy friends, but you may still be confused as to what, exactly, terroir means, and how it relates to cheese. The word (from the French terre, meaning land) refers to the geography, soil, and climate of a place that influences the flavor of the wine, cheese– or even meat and vegetables– that are produced there.  

When it comes to cheese, various factors of terroir– the grass on which the animals grazed, the bacteria in the soil, the humidity in the air– play a huge role in determining the flavor profile. Which is why so many cheeses– Asiago, Comté, Camembert— are named after the regions where they are made. 

This video, from BoingBoing explains terroir by following the path from land to animal to milk to cheesemaker to customer. 

As the video’s narrator puts it, “Cheese is climate, biology, history, culture, and love concentrated.” Hear, hear!

Learn more about terroir in Cheese for Dummies, and check out Distant Cheeses, Local Farmers, in which blogger Molly investigates the difficulties of reproducing European cheeses in America. 

Amanda Minoff

Amanda graduated from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine with a degree in English Literature and Art History. She is a reader and writer of fiction and loves cheese that tells a good story.