To dip your toe into the complex world of terroir here are a handful of wines to buy and sip at leisure, noting the way the minerality in each is carried forth by the unique make-up of each vineyard's soil, elavation and climate.
Pauillac, Bordeaux, France
Famous for: known as a textbook Bordeaux wine which is rich, full bodied and tannic.
Soil type: rocky, gravel soils with occasional depsoits of limestone, iron and clay. These challenging soils wouldn't work for most agricultural products but with grapes they force the vines to delve deep into the soil, alternatively suffering, seeking and finding nourishment. There is ample water in drier periods but perfect drainage in wet seasons.
Try: 2011 Berry Bros. & Rudd Pauillac by Ch. Lynch Bages - Relatively deep in colour, with an intense nose of damsons and blackcurrants, there is a rich, silky texture on the palate and a great wealth of savoury cassis fruit which coats the mouth.
Mosel Valley, Germany
Famous for: riesling wines, which had a reputation for being overly sweet. While the area does produce a typical rich and sweet white, it also has dry and mineral wines which bring forth the character of the banks of the Mosel. The vineyards are also known as most labour-intensive vineyards in the world thanks to the steep banks of the river.
Soil type: Slate is the prevalent type of soil on the banks of the river which warms quickly in the sun and retains the heat of the day late into the cool of the evening. It is often said riesling, above all grapes, reflects the soil it was grown in, absorbing each nuance of flavour and showcasing them in its wines. Here in the Mosel Valley, wines will change throughout the bending of the river.
Try: J.J. Prüm wines are a great example of how the valley changes subtly as you move along. While all the vineyards that make up the 13.5 hectare estate border each other and share roughly the same slate soils they produce distinctive styles of wine yet all retain that lovely slate-character.
Volcanic Terroir, Mediterranean
Famous for: flint and gunsmoke acidity. Volcanic wine is found across Mediterranean islands, with some of the highest vineyard altitudes inthe world. The mineral whites are some of the best wines in the world.
Soil type: With little to no organic matter fround in volcanic soils wines struggle for growth and water, producing the perfect vineyards to produce wine.
Try: Volcanic terroir - mineralty, no organic matter so wines struggle. Suertes del Marques from Tenerife has mouth watering whites using the listan blanco grape while on the same island the wineries Suertes' Trenzado and Taganan Blanco both produce delight flinty wines. - Envinate. laced with flint, gunsmoke more acidity. Over on the Greek island Santorini any white wines made from assyrtiko, espeically from Argyros winery, burst with salinty and volcanic energy.
Famous for: the gamay grape's light red wines, which are often served chilled.
Soil type: A large area, Beaujolais' soil types vary, but are divided by north and south. To the north you'll find granite and limestone on the hills while the lower slopes are made of clay based soils. To the south there is much more clay and limestone but little granite.
Try: 2011 Moulin-à-Vent, Vieilles Vignes, Thibault Liger-Belair - This Moulin à Vent cuvée comes from seven plots on granite soil, with vines aged from 65 to 85 years. Dense purple black in colour, with just a whiff of oak on the nose alongside the superbly concentrated fruit. This is a wine of impressive density and has a crunchy fresh acidity that characterises the granite soils of Beaujolais.
Famous for: Malbecs and other bold reds. Its many bodegas are popular for tastings and tours.
Soil type: Loose sand over clay with mountainous rivers feeding into the area. Soils are mostly alluvial and possess pebbly subsoil, along with sediments of sand, lime, clay and poor organic matter.
Try: Catena White Bones and White Stones – two amazingly terroir driven wines that show how a micro terroir affect the wines. These are two different wines from the same vineyard fruit, from two different areas in the vineyard, one lean and mineral, one rich and ripe.