What does the French term "climat" mean?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

Would you please explain what the term “climat” means. I see it used in describing French wines, more specifically French vineyards. I know it does not mean “climate.”

—Michael S., Westlake Village, Calif.

Dear Michael,

You can think of climat as a term used in Burgundy for a single-vineyard site. To understand the way climat is used, I think it helps to understand terroir first. Terroir is a French term that translates loosely into “sense of place,” suggesting how the intersection of climate, soil type and topography influence the way a wine turns out. Given that terroir refers to this concept, then climat refers to an actual site that is unique because of its geographic characteristics, or terroir.

—Dr. Vinny

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