I shall try to recall the text I wrote as my answer in the final exam for the viticulture course of my masters degree. We were supposed to pick a side for the debate. The following text does not imply that I am constantly against the concept and catch-cry of some producers in the world, it is there to show points that terroir lovers should not ignore.
“Terroir”; with its highly diverse set of definitions; means different things to different people.
For some it means the micro climate, for others it means the uniqueness of a location, then comes a myriad of other explanations, theories and definitions of a faith in this word that verges on religious fervour. Quality is attainable through other ways, not just through a mystical word that romaticises a geographical place and all the rules, regulations and laws that come with maintaining the image of that particular location.
Even though its proponents deny it, they use the word “terroir” in very much a marketing way. They “pitch” this word as a simile for “tradition and history are better than everything else because we have been doing it HERE longer than you.”
With its tight laws, rules and regulations, producers from “terroir” areas are more sensitive to global market forces and need consistent subsidies from their government when things go badly for them, because the very rules they put up to defend themselves prevent them from adapting to survive.
It is an oxymoron for a collective group to insist that each of its parts is unique because if we are all unique, then we are the same (since we would be sharing at least one similarity: uniqueness).
In its simplest definition, “terroir” literally means land (similar to “territory” in English), so any opponent would be right to say “our dirt is every bit as good as their dirt” - yes, even Johnny-comes-lately producers can say this. So it would be arrogant and chauvinistic of “terroir” proponents to state that not only is their way better; it is the ONLY way.