Terroir · 23 March 2019

Harvest time in the Chablis Premier Cru vineyard of Fourchaume
by CocktailSteward
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

What do terroir, pinot noir, and bouquet have in common? They sound nothing like they are spelled. And coincidentally, they all have to do with wine.

I suppose it is not totally a coincidence the terroir, pinot noir, and bouquet are words relating to wine. Okay. No coincidence at all, but the main reason I chose them is because they are not pronounced like they are spelled. Hooked on Phonics would not help with those words. Or maybe it is just me. I certainly would not pronounce TERROIR terˈwär. Nor would I pronounce NOIR nwär. And what is the deal with leaving out the ‘T’ sound in pinot and bouquet? Yes. I understand that the English language has a bunch of French, German, Italian, Spanish, Greek, Latin, Klingon, Romulan, and words from just about every known and unknown language there ever was or ever might be, but it would be nice if we could agree that words look like they sound. Or maybe just agree on any rules to the language.

To be fair, terroir would be difficult to distinguish from terror. In both spelling and sound. At least if terroir was pronounced like it looked. Maybe like somebody was surprised when saying the last syllable. Ter’ o ir. I do not know. All I know is that I am glad I am not the one who made up all the rules of pronunciation in English. Or spelling for that matter. After all, you pronounce something, but it is the pronunciation of something. The difference grammatically between the words is that one is a verb and the other is a noun. But why drop the o and change the pronunciation? Strange.

Which is why I would much rather learn English as a first language. It is too complicated and silly to learn as a second. Especially, when it seems that other languages have specific and inviolable rules.

Like French. If there is a T in the word, you simply do not pronounce it. Unless, of course, it is at the start of the word. And when you are spelling words, you can add three or more vowels and it will still sound the same as if there were only one. And lest we forget the most important rule. If O and I are together, they sound mostly like an O. Maybe like WO. But that is where I started this whole thing. Terroir and noir.

Which brings me back to wine.

Personally, I do not touch the stuff. Or at least I remember that I still do not like it, whenever I have a sip of somebody else’s. I must not be sophisticated enough or something. At any rate, I certainly could not tell what region the wine came from or distinguish details of its bouquet or know whether it was a pinot noir or cabernet or any other wine. Still, it is fascinating that others can. These experts can know the terroir, the complete environmental factors that go into making the wine, just by the smell and taste. Amazing.

Apparently, terroir does not just apply to wine though. Wine people might want exclusivity to the word, but it does apply to other foodstuff as well. In particular, cheese and other stuff that must be aged. The particular environmental factors like soil and moisture content and a bunch of other stuff all contribute to terroir. And those factors can be tasted in wine and the other foodstuffs. At least according to some experts that I know.

Which brings me to why the heck I would even post all this stuff about something I know so little about. I suppose it was just part of the terroir that goes into my writing. After all, factors like environment and spelling and pronunciation and even weather have much to do with a blog like mine. So suffice it to say that regardless of any other reasons I might or might not have had for writing this particular piece of prose, I wrote about terroir because of my own terroir. And because the word sounds nothing like it looks. Terroir.

© 2019 Michael T. Miyoshi

Share on facebook


Commenting is closed for this article.