n. A unique set of characteristics that identify a wine with a particular geographical area.
The French call it [gout de] terroir but the late Bill Ryan preferred to talk about 'somewhereness' when referring to the elusive combination of micro-climate, soil and aspect that lifts one wine above another.
—Christine Salins, “Somewhere special,” The Canberra Times, June 19, 2002
The theoretical work done by the University of California School of Viticulture and Enology at Davis, near Sacramento, was meant to enhance large-scale grape growing and wine making, Mr. Kramer asserts…Soil quality, long paramount in the European fine-wine equation, was dismissed by Davis scientists as relatively unimportant in California. The result, he says: hundreds of dull, cookie-cutter wines with little or no sense of what he calls "somewhereness."

In their search for better wines, Mr. Kramer says, the California fine-wine makers have been shedding much of the Davis approach and looking to Europe for inspiration. As in Bordeaux and Burgundy and Tuscany, specific soils are beginning to produce wines with recognizable characteristics, that all-important "somewhereness" that distinguishes, say, a Puligny-Montrachet from a Chevalier-Montrachet from a vineyard a few hundred yards away.
—Frank J. Prial, “Wine Talk,” The New York Times, September 02, 1992
1992 (earliest)
The newest appellations—Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills, the westernmost section of Sonoma Coast, the west-of-Highway-101 portion of Paso Robles—are all, in effect, pursuits of place. Where once blending from numerous sources was considered the ideal, California's ?nest wines are now openly all about "somewhereness."
—Matt Kramer, Making Sense of California Wine, William Morrow & Co, September 01, 1992
Those of us who enjoy wine but wouldn't know a Chateauneuf-du-Pape from a Chateau Hoboken often amuse ourselves (and, occasionally, those around us) by using fancy wine terms ironically. In a mock snooty voice, we speak of the wine's "nose," its "body," and its "finish." We describe it as "buttery," "fruity," "oaky," or, my personal favorite, "crisp." However, for an oenophile (EE.nuh.fyl) — "a connoisseur or lover of wine" — these terms have very specific and useful meanings, and without them wine commentary would be impossible.

So it must be just a little exciting for a connoisseur to come across a new addition to the viticultural vocabulary. Somewhereness (probably inspired by the French phrase gout de terroir — literally, "the taste of the soil"; and a person who follows this principle is sometimes called a terroirist) was coined by the wine writer Matt Kramer, who used the term in his 1992 book Making Sense of California Wine (see the earliest citation).
Filed Under