“terroir :noun ter·roir \ ter-ˈwär\
Definition of terroir: the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character” Webster DICTIONARY
Terroir tells a story of place and time. Usually this refers to grapes that transform into wine. Lately, there is a growing sensibility to apply the concept of terroir across broader agricultural products to highlight their unique properties. For people who seek a gourmet experience, being familiar with terroir enhances the enjoyment of a meal and the appreciation of wine.
Have you have ever visited a farmers’ market, local butcher shop, cheese shop or farm stand? Chances are you were learning about terroir if you had a conversation with the shopkeeper about the items you were buying. They will tell you things about the location it was grown or produced (soil). Chatting with a farmer will get you a full report about the weather, it is one of their favorite topics after all (climate). These are the factors that will influence the flavour of the local meat, wine or produce we put past our lips.
Taste and Terroir, a culinary event hosted by Canada Beef led us through the epicurean experience of sampling popular cuts of beef paired with wines from the Niagara region. Set amongst the vineyards of Niagara College, we mindfully explored how to taste beef for maximum enjoyment. A focused sensory experience was used to demonstrate the four key elements of taste.
- Visual Impression – Our eyes eat first so it must be pleasing to be tasty. The redness of the beef when raw and cooked depends on many factors like, maturity, doneness, aging and the type of work the muscle does.
- Tenderness– Is all about resistance and force and the number of chews it takes before you swallow your beef. Think about it like difference between chewing a gummy bear vs. a piece of soft bread.
- Juiciness– Mouth feel depends on moisture levels of your food and the flavour released with the juices. think about the juiciness of a banana vs. cucumber.
- Flavour/Aroma– You can’t taste properly if you can’t smell. Flavour and aroma go hand in hand and are unique to the palate of the person doing the tasting. Meat with a bold flavour like top sirloin cap will appeal to different people than a milder cut like tenderloin. It is personal preference but we can experiment and expand our palates with mindful tasting.
Before this experience I was a “well done beef eater” but I had no idea what I was missing! Following the recommendations of Joyce Parslow from the Canadian Beef Centre of Excellence who taught us how to taste beef for tenderness, juiciness and flavour. Chefs Michael Olson and Marty Carpenter shared the importance of choosing the right cut of beef and how to match it with seasoning and cooking methods. I then learned about the wine pairings and how the subtleties of each wine enhances the flavour of the beef. I feel like I earned myself a degree in beef and wine tasting so that I can confidently order a steak in restaurant or choose the right cut of meat for my next recipe.
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Disclaimer: I was invited to enjoy this culinary experience by Canada Beef . The opinions and excitement I shared are all my own . I hope you find them helpful and that they inspire you to try new recipes and pairings with beef and wine.