August 2015

Terroir or the Tartan: Of the Wine World

Author: John A. Julius

Tartan (noun): a woolen cloth woven in one of several patterns of plaid, especially of a design associated with a particular Scottish clan.

Terroir (noun): the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate.


Like the swallows of Capistrano, the annual spring migration of plaids come to rest each year on our iconic island for a few days of lavish Lowcountry living. Through the masses of random plaid, true and authentic tartan is on display. Emblematic of the Scottish highlands, the tartan symbolizes both people and land. It evokes a sense of place.

Our proximity to the Atlantic and vast expanse of brackish marsh land create veritable nurseries for a host of delicious seafood. These local waters, soil, and climate leave an indelible mark on who we are, what we eat, and how it tastes. With our chefs seeking out local produce and regional free-range protein, we can enjoy our sense of place visually, physically, and gastronomically. These generally desirable, unchanging, and unique attributes create a sense of place, or what is akin to our “terroir.”

Terroir refers to the unique confluence of soil, climate, and geography as it affects agriculture. It is most often used when referring to that aspect of a wine so unique it cannot be replicated in another region of the world. Generally speaking, wines with higher acidity (mouthwatering) little to no oak (no vanilla or butter flavor) and a touch of residual sugar (fruity but not sweet) go perfectly with our seasonal summer seafood dominated fare.

As a wine geek and sommelier, gastronomy inspires my oenology. Food makes me think of wine, because when thoughtfully paired, they bring out the best in each other. In short, wine can be the most important condiment on the table.

With or without food, these refreshing whites will easily pair with locally sourced fare or the aforementioned sunset. It’s going to be fine; try something new, and be adventurous. Maybe you can’t pronounce the grapes, but if the wine is good, who cares? So please, this summer, try some wines with terroir, and seek the tartan in an otherwise generic world of plaid. 


Marc Bredif Vouvray Classic or Domaine Huet La Haut Lieu Sec (Loire Valley, France)
Frankly, any dry style Chenin Blanc (sec vouvray denotes a dry wine from Chenin Blanc) will rock your world. I say rock, because the soil is the key here. These are two of my favorite examples. Green apple, honey, and lime zest with a crisp ginger laden chalky flint finish.

August Kesseler Cuvee R Riesling (Rheingau/Pfalz, Germany)
A brilliant showcase of muted pineapple and crisp red apple, with a kiss of residual sugar and barely enough alcohol to notice. The river reflects heat on the vineyards, resulting in textbook tropical notes.

Mohua Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough, New Zealand)
This family owned winery offers a more refined example of the obligatory New Zealand grapefruit and citrus zest, tempered by harmonious notes of nectarine and talc.

Tablas Creek Patelin de Tablas Blanc (Paso Robles, California)
Transplanted grapes from France’s Rhone Valley excel in the vineyards in and around this unique coastal outpost. This blend of Grenache Blanc/Viognier/Roussanne offers a delicious medley of floral honeysuckle and mineral, with peach and lemon curd that linger through the finish.

Can Feixes Blanc Seleccio (Penedes, Spain)
More often consumed with bubbles (Cava), the dry white wines of Penedes are made from the same backbone of grapes (Paralleda/Macebeo), offering a blissful paradox of textures and aromas. At once spicy and tart, this is all citrus and smoked pepper, rich without being thick.


Pecan-Crusted Tilapia
Recipe courtesy of

1/2 cup Pecan Halves
4 (6oz.) Fresh Tilapia Fillets
1 Teaspoon Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
1/4 Teaspoon Pepper
3 Tablespoons Butter
Lemon Wedge
Fresh Parsley Sprig

Process pecans in a food processor until finely chopped. Sprinkle fish fillets with salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Dredge fish in finely chopped pecans.

Melt butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; add fish, and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until well browned and fish flakes with a fork.

Let Us Know what You Think ...

commenting closed for this article