“Le terroir is what turns wine lovers on.”
If the word is loosely defined in the positive, perhaps terroir is best understood for what it is not. Magny considers pesticides and herbicides forces of anti-terroir. A large portion of the book is spent detailing how pesticides and herbicides harm the soil and denigrate the environment as a whole, all the while creating a culture of mass production and environmental apathy. “One of the biggest enemies of the expressions of terroir in wine,” Magny says, “is irrigation.” Shipping grapes from one region and sneaking them (legally) into a wine from another region is an act of anti-terroir. Filtration, oak chips and other winemaking tricks can rob a wine of its terroir.
One of the reasons I love this book is because Magny’s views on terroir, sustainability, organic viticulture, etc., largely correspond with my own. But even if you disagree with some of Magny’s points, this book will get you thinking about key aspects of the terroir culture, and that’s a good thing.
But Into Wine, scheduled for release April 19, is more than just a love poem to terroir. Magny does a good job explaining the basics of the French Appellation d’Origine Contrôllé system of regional classification. He breaks down the different chemical processes of winemaking, gives advice for newbs on how to decipher wine labels, and lays out a helpful list of wineries around the world that practice biodynamic farming. The text is littered with interesting little info boxes, statistics, charts and stories from his wine travels. And Magny offers answers to 25 wine FAQs, including: What are sulfites? What is the sediment in the bottle? What do you think of Californian wine? His answer to the later — “Overall, overpriced!!” — is a little ridiculous, but, hey, he’s French.