Article ID: CBB738974372

Terroir Transformed: Cheese and Pastoralism in the Western French Pyrenees (October 2018)


This article explores the evolving concept of terroir, broadly understood today to designate a grouping of territories within a region that yield one or more characteristic food products or wine. Through a case study of sheep’s milk cheese made in the western French Pyrenees, my analysis moves beyond contemporary articulations of terroir, which are described here as the promotional, the scientific, and the culturally constructed. I show that Pyrenean landscapes linked to sheep’s milk cheese are the product of historical and ecological shifts that have joined human consumption to community regulations, structures of property ownership, fire, livestock, flora, and soil profiles. Such a view neither romanticizes terroir nor renders it static; more than a cultural construction, Pyrenean terroir emerges as contingent and, at times, unstable. Furthermore, the twentieth-century history of sheep raising and sheep’s milk cheese production in the western Pyrenees reveals the dramatic short-term changes in terroir that have resulted in the wake of demographic and economic mutations. By the early twenty-first century, however, Pyrenean pastoralism in the service of sheep’s milk cheese had emerged as a beacon of sustainability, illustrating both long-term continuities and a turn away from the twentieth-century norm.

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Authors & Contributors
Aimé, Annie
Almenara, Carlos A.
Jagdev Singh
Maïano, Christophe
Andrea S. Wiley
Collantes, Fernando
Human Ecology: An Interdisciplinary Journal
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Science as Culture
Revue d'Histoire des Sciences
Past and Present
Osiris: A Research Journal Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Left Coast Press
Harvard University Press
Georg Editeur
Columbia University Press
University of Minnesota
Food and foods
Food industry and trade
Dairy industry
Science and culture
Rösch, Jean
Tradescant, John
Tradescant, family
Pascal, Blaise
Koyré, Alexandre
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century, late
20th century
17th century
Iron age
Pyrenees (France and Spain)
United States
Great Britain
Indian Institute of Astrophysics
Université de Montpellier

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