I was 20 when I began visiting Somlo Hill, a small volcanic wine region in Hungary. My old friend in those times often showed me around the local attractions. Once one time when we were approaching his winery halfway upon the hill, we stopped by 5 small wine cellars and tasted the fresh wine from the oak barrels. We noticed big differences in bouquet, minerals and acidity in each of the 5 cellars. Basically it was different soils and the local microclimates which determined each unique taste…This concept has inspired people to name and classify such interesting regions of the world as ‘terroirs’. Often particular names are given to each individual area, but in overall there is a classification starting from ordinary to the best spots called ‘premier and grand cru’.

15 years later the same idea grasped me when I first arrived in Higashi-Awakura. The southern facing landscape of the village has its large variation in soils (like volcanic ash, forest, sandy and Okayama red clay soils) coupled with distinct climatic areas; one spot yuzu (a Japanese citron) cannot survive the winter, in another it can become a large tree.

In my 0.3 hectare garden I enjoy growing on 3 particular terroirs, which give me the freedom to play with a large variations of plants, which I could not have dreamt of before. Consequently, in the main growing season I can easily count more than 100 plant varieties at the same time!

Amongst chefs, the word terroir has a rather extended and complex meaning. According to Pierre Koffmann, terroir refers to a local village’s region, in which everything is historically produced from eggs to vegetables and gathered or hunted in the wild (like wild mushrooms and river fish) which give a chef the strict repertoire to cook with. Michel Bras has been similarly looking for nearby producers and products to create a regionally authentic menu at the same time also experimenting with new ingredients which are also locally grown. For me, as a gardener it is important to understand and maintain the needs of local terroir characters, such as minerality, the seasonality and historical plant varieties in order to fulfill their full potential. Therefore in the process of achieving terroir taste a clear understanding is important between a chef and a gardener.