Knowing ‘Terroir’: a Sense of Place

Short piece on the concept of ‘terroir’ – an important but undertheorised concept.

by Fiona Ferbrache

‘Terroir’ is not a word to be found in my Dictionary of Human Geography, but geographer Tim Unwin (2012) locates the notion of terroir “at the heart of Geography”.  While this French word is frequently used to talk about food and wine production, it can also be linked to a sense of place and other key geographical ideas.

A recent article from The New York Times entitled ‘Vive le Terroir’ reappeared in the International Herald Tribune as ‘A sense of place that defies globalization’.  The narrative introduces a family who reside in the rural village of Castelnau de Montmiral, South West France.  It explains the family’s deep and emotional connection to the land (Jérôme is a farmer), to the extent that one “knows every inch, every stone, and which parcels are for what”. It describes terroir.

The article defines terroir as a concept “almost untranslatable, combining…

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