This piece looks to cover the fundamental origins of how we apricate the industries of food and beverage. It also looks to outline the importance of understanding the significance of place as individuals striving for independent opinion and appreciation of their trade. For example, by understanding the significance of where our food comes we can look to appreciate more what’s in our very own back yard, enjoy what comes from afar in greater depth and embody a more autonomous local industry.
Terroir (tare-wahr); A French term commonly associated with wine that can simply be described as “The Taste Of Place”. Stemming from the Latin word terra meaning earth, connections can be made to terrain and territory.
Terroir is something experienced every day yet is not discussed or related to within the bar world very often at all. It is a simple idea that the natural environment can impact dramatically on the world of gastronomy and what we consume as food and beverage.
The significance of the Australian Terroir and its place behind the bar are topics not often embodied but are ever so important to the identity and progress to the Australian Bar industry. When tasting and discussing gastronomy we often remark on flavour notes and envision likenesses and paring suggestions or cocktail constructions. It is relevant to understand that these conversations are threaded together by taste and ultimately a connection with origin. For example, “blackberry notes” in the red wine “stone fruit” in the brandy, “dry grass” in the tequila or pairing a white wine with fish served with lemon and ginger tend to remain as technical terminology reserved for “wine guys” rather than being grounded in agrarian culture or practical application for bartenders as professionals often fail to connect at all with any unique origins of their produce.
Origin is encapsulated with in all elements that occur before arriving at the loading dock. Climate, conditions and geology, ingredients and their source, overall techniques used by generations of local technicians and crafts people, barrel aging and barrel material, place of production, and storage all denote a signature.
When looking to translate terroir from French it is hard to derive a direct translation that encapsulates all its total meaning. When attempted, alternate translations such as soil, locality, or “part of the country” are derived. The term Terroir is firmly embedded in French culture and this can suggest why it is difficult to translate. It is an everyday assumption about food that the French hold.
A tradition held for centuries, the idea is that when eating you are ingesting nature and with that comes the taste of earth. This taste then signifies pleasure and a further desired good or even preference. It is an opportunity to celebrate the agrarian (rural peasant) life that is so central in French culture. For example, Cheese made by the same breed of cow at the same time but in two separate valleys by different farmers can denote two very different end products. Due to the valley conditions and farming techniques each cheese is differentiated, respected and celebrated as unique and different.
The French people as well as policy makers look to preserve this amazing heritage with the creation of denomination of origin, or the compilation of terroir recipes through the National Program for Food. Controlling laws set by The Appelation D’origine Controlee (AOC) also denote origin and the identity of gastronomy.
Max Allan goes into great detail to explore what terroir means to Australia and its historical place in our own cultures. Reaching out to indigenous communities he discovers great links between the French concept of Terroir and the Aboriginal beliefs and language surrounding “belonging to land”. While again there is no direct English translation words like “Pangkara” of the Kaurna people of the Adelaide plains and “Beek” of the Boon Wurung people of Victoria make great links to celebrating the uniqueness of land or terrain. He goes further to discover that words like “ngooleek” make a close translation to “belonging to land” a concept and belief strong in the indigenous cultures of Australia.
Australia celebrates a unique connection with its land and the agrarian culture that works off that land. Our wine industries, produce industries, native produce industries, dairy industries and sea food industries have championed this topic for years to great success across the country. Our land is rich with human history and geological uniqueness. For example estuaries, beaches and lagoons, grasslands and woodlands, freshwater lakes, rivers and swamps, temperate rainforests and tall dry forests have encapsulated micro climates and made for unique fertile lands that have supported mankind for over 60 thousand years.
Much of our economy survives off the exploitation of these unique lands and micro climates. The rise in the spirits industry has now introduced another player to field that celebrates where we come from with great ambition. With little standing in our way around restrictive AOC like laws and tradition we find ourselves in a position to capitalize on what is available to us and experiment with our techniques and local produce.