Agriculture, natural resource management and the production and sale of products such as wine are increasingly data-driven activities. Thus, the use of remote and proximal crop and soil sensors to aid management decisions is becoming commonplace and ‘Agtech’ is proliferating commercially; mapping, underpinned by geographical information systems and complex methods of spatial analysis, is widely used. Likewise, the chemical and sensory analysis of wines draws on multivariate statistics; the efficient winery intake of grapes, subsequent production of wines and their delivery to markets relies on logistics; whilst the sales and marketing of wines is increasingly driven by artificial intelligence linked to the recorded purchasing behaviour of consumers. In brief, there is data everywhere!
Opinions will vary on whether these developments are a good thing. Those concerned with the ‘mystique’ of wine, or the historical aspects of terroir and its preservation, may find them confronting. In contrast, they offer an opportunity to those interested in the biophysical elements of terroir, and efforts aimed at better understanding how these impact on vineyard performance and the sensory attributes of resultant wines. At the previous Terroir Congress, we demonstrated the potential of analytical methods used at the within-vineyard scale in the development of Precision Viticulture, in contributing to a quantitative understanding of regional terroir. For this conference, we take this approach forward with examples from contrasting locations in both the northern and southern hemispheres. We show how, by focussing on the vineyards within winegrowing regions, as opposed to all of the land within those regions, we might move towards a more robust terroir zoning than one derived from a mixture of history, thematic mapping, heuristics and the whims of marketers. Aside from providing improved understanding by underpinning terroir with data, such methods should also promote improved management of the entire wine value chain.