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Dear Dr. Vinny,
In the wine industry, there's a heavy emphasis on “terroir,” cru status, individual vineyard plots, etc. I have never encountered another agricultural product treated this way. For instance, people really love strawberries, but as far as I know, nobody sells an ounce of strawberries for $1,000.
—Mark M., Arlington, Va.
Actually, I’ve seen an increasing stream of designer produce and ingredients over the years besides grapes, like Frog Hollow Farm peaches, Niman Ranch beef, Rancho Gordo beans, Hudson Valley Farms produce and all manner of fine cheeses. And speaking of agriculture, the fastest-growing crop in the United States is currently cannabis, and efforts are already underway to establish terroir-based "appellations" for it.
I agree that the focus on terroir when it comes to wine is pretty intense, but there are similar examples: Ask someone who drinks Kona coffee, smokes Cuban cigars or enjoys agave tequila or Bourbon whiskey if it matters where something is made. I think the world is moving more in a direction where the “somewhereness” of products are mattering more and more—I see terroir becoming more and more important for chocolate, tea and hops in particular.
Outside of wine, the term “terroir” isn’t used as much as Protected Designations of Origin (PDO) or Geographical Indications (GI), which means that cheese like Roquefort and Stilton and Parmigiano-Reggiano come from a very specific place. You’ll also see that some terms as simple as Florida orange juice and Idaho potatoes have legal definitions.
As far as strawberries, there’s actually a roadside stand that I will drive out of my way to because I find that the berries there are sweeter and more intense than the ones sold closer to my house. But you're right that I don't pay $1,000 for them. Of course, there's not an auction market for collectible vintage strawberries, either.
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