Vin d’effort and vin de terroir: writing as a conversation with the world

vin de terroirI’ve been listening to a podcast of Michael Krazny interviewing vintner and writer Randall Grahm on KQED’s Forum. Here and on his own website, Grahm talks about a French idea of two different kinds of wine making. Vin d’effort is a wine made by the effort of the winemaker—it bears his or her stamp, is made according to his or her will, but can only be as intelligent and interesting as the winemaker. Vin de terroir, on the other hand, depends on and expresses the place where it is grown— the weather and the nature, factors, in other words, that are out of the hands of its maker. This made me think about writing.

Is your book a van d’effort or a vin de terroir?

Grahm admires wines of place more than wines of effort. They embody originality as a collaboration between the grower and the place. (I’m elaborating here for my own purposes.) I love the idea that a writer in conversation with circumstance, place, with the sometimes random occurrences and objects that populate our lives will produce a more original book than one that is tightly controlled, carefully executed. The creation in the vin de terroir is one sparked against the unexpected, against chance and the external world.

How do you let the world around you join you in writing your book?

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  1. it’s like the difference between channeling and slogging. any novel is probably a combo of both. the channeling is the spark and the slogging is the time and commitment required.

    very interesting to think about, love the analogy.

  2. At first I read this as vin de terreur (wine of terror). And this is pretty close to the bone, because this is often how I experience is vin de terroir. The first drafts are always the wines of terror and earth. Later drafts, with editors, allow for vin d’effort. I often wish I could write a vin d’effort. But my voice doesn’t work that way, or grow in the earth that way.

  3. Thanks, Amy and Thaisa.
    Amy–Yes! Channeling and slogging, ain’t it the truth.
    Thaisa–The vintner was strongly in favor of vin de terroir over vin d’effort, saying that originality was located in the former. Not sure what he’d say about vin de terror, but I expect it does, as you suggest, amount to the same thing. Beautifully put!


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