Sunday, December 28, 2003

A little side note before we advance into the 5 s's! In the inaugural NSW Wine Press Club Lecture Jeffery Grosset discussed the word "pangkarra" as the Australian equivalent of the French "terroir". Pangkarra is an Australian aboriginal word used by the Kaurna (usually pronounced "Garner" or "Gowna") people who once lived near the Adelaide Plains of South Australia.

Neither pangkarra and terroir has an English equivalent. Terrroir essentially encompasses "the total natural environment of any viticultural site" (Janis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine). The emphasis however seems to be on the soil. Pangkarra is derived from pangka, which means a lake or a lagoon "but its meaning also incorporates the concept of a vast area including a vast expanse of water such as the ocean. The latter part of the word arra, is a postfix denoting the sense of being alongside." (See The Kauna). Pangkarra therefore indicates an area of land at least some of which is alongside a body of water that was used by a particular family group. In a recent interview on Radio National Linguist Jane Simpson noted that pangkarra was defined in 1840 as "a district or tract of country belonging to an individual, which he inherits from his father".

Its a little hard to justify Grosset's use of the word given that it may simply mean a plot of land owed by an individual family group. Where is the relationship to the "natural environment"? Of course the meanings that are given above for pangkarra may not do justice to the meaning in Aboriginal language. The concept may mean far more than the land, it may also refer to what is on and under the land i.e. food, and certainly water. But I'm willing to bet that even through the aborigines were great managers of their land they didn't grow grapes, nor did they make wine. One may be forgiven then for being just a little "terroirfied" of winemakers venturing into linguistics!