Terroir is a French word that describes a wine’s ability to reflect a unique sense of place, whether from one wine region to another, or from individual sections within the same vineyard. The term is one of the most mysterious concepts in the world of wine, with heated debates on the topic more common than not amongst groups of experienced tasters. The Oxford Dictionary defines terroir as “the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate”, as well as “the characteristic taste and flavor imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced”. Geology plays an important role in controlling these factors, and many wine experts believe that the bedrock geology of a region imparts a distinct fingerprint on its wines. However, there are many nuanced variations of this concept, with a major distinction being whether or not to include the human aspect (local wine culture and heritage including farming practices and vinification styles) involved in the production of the wine. This talk will introduce the history of terroir and how the concept has shaped wine regions in both the “old” and “new” worlds of wine. We will review the major geologic factors that impact a site’s terroir, as well as the human factors that can either enhance or obscure these qualities. We will also comment on the research that is currently underway on how these factors affect the physiology of the vine and the characteristics of the final wine. Throughout this discussion we will relate these concepts to the local wine regions of Santa Barbara County, and discuss some general characteristics of each of Santa Barbara’s American Viticultural Areas (AVAs).
Located in Napa, CA, Brenna is committed to thoughtfully applying the science of geology to the world of wine through both education and hands-on vineyard investigations.
She works with wine professionals in all areas of the trade, from growers in France to importers and buyers in the US, in order to precisely define the most impactful elements of their terroirs in a relevant and approachable manner. She is also the founder and host of Roadside Terroir, a podcast program that drives you through the wines, geology, and and culture of your favorite wine regions. The first season, entirely based on Santa Barbara County, is out now.
Brenna received her Bachelor’s Degree in Aquatic Biology and Geology from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2012, where she stayed on to earn her Masters in Geology with Dr. Phil Gans in 2015. Her research focused on geologic mapping and structural geology (how and why rocks deform). She has also worked extensively in the mining industry where she further developed her skills in geologic mapping and interpretation, soil sampling, and geophysical surveying. During her time at UCSB, Brenna spent her free time exploring the wine country of Santa Barbara, and began working at her favorite tasting room on the weekends. It was there, working with Seth and Magan Kunin that she fell in love with the wine industry and the complex concept of terroir.
Recently, Brenna has had the great privilege of working with growers, producers, sommeliers, and importers all over the world. From her backyard in the Napa Valley, to diverse regions in the old world including France, Italy, Austria, and Spain.