A lay person could be forgiven for thinking a group of vintners and enophiles talking shop were speaking another language. In many ways, they are—the American winespeak vernacular draws on words rooted in many foreign tongues, predominantly French. But some of our idiomatic terms are occasionally adopted by the general populace.
"Vintage" might be the most prominent example. Collectibles of every ilk are now referred to by aficionados as "vintage," from cars to clothes. Sportscasters regularly call a veteran ballplayer's banner day a "vintage performance."
Thanks to a bubbling battle of Paris cola drinkers and the Wall Street Journal, "terroir" could be the unlikely next wine term to make the leap into the mainstream.
Terroir, or a wine's expression of "place"—soil, climate and topography—is bantered about aplenty in the wine world. In some circles, a wine's expression of terroir is the ultimate defining factor in its quality. But it's a term I least expected to work its way into common usage.
There's a cola war afoot in Paris. Two brands, Paris Cola and Parisgo Cola, are launching at the same time. As reported in yesterday's Wall Street Journal, the two brands are similarly packaged, with a red cap and label that features the Eiffel Tower; both claim to represent the spirit of Paris.
The perception of authenticity is at the heart of the competition, with cola brands across France citing unique terroir. The Journal reports there are as many as 30 regional colas in France, a product of "the terroir effect." The terroir being drawn from the cola's water source, the local beets from which the cola's sugar is derived, and various other local flavorings.
If there's any question as to whether the term terroir might resonate with an American audience, consider the Journal's front-page headline: "Terroir War: Good Nose, Local Beets? Must be a 2013 Paris Cola"
Could terroir catch on as a selling point for regional specialites in the States? There's an undeniable sense of place to a San Francisco sourdough or a New York bagel … America's own terroir wars might be just around the corner.