"Meroir” (from the Latin mer, “sea") is a newer variation on the popular word “terroir” (from terre, “land"). Terroir might concern itself with what region’s soils result in a particular wine; merior might involve the salinity and temperature of water in producing the best oysters.
Greg Atkinson wrote in the Seattle (WA) Times on March 14, 2003:
“Pacific oysters reflect the taste of the waters in which they are grown. Pondering this phenomenon, Rowley and I coined the term ‘merroir,’ after the French ‘terroir,’ which describes the way certain foods and wine grapes bear the detectable flavors of their home soil.”
The word is usually spelled “meroir” (from mer) and not “merroir.”
Seattle (WA) Times
Friday, March 14, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM
Pacific Northwest Magazine / Taste
Treasures of the Tide Flats: On a beach or at a bash, oysters are worthy of celebration
By Greg Atkinson
Pacific oysters reflect the taste of the waters in which they are grown. Pondering this phenomenon, Rowley and I coined the term “merroir,” after the French “terroir,” which describes the way certain foods and wine grapes bear the detectable flavors of their home soil. To christen the new word, we shucked another oyster and poured another glass of wine. We were so pleased with ourselves that, had we been a little bolder or a little less sober, I think we would have burst into song.
Posted 27 January 2006 - 08:40 PM
Chalk it up to “meroir”. There are probably a few eGullet threads on oysters. As to why they develop different physical characteristics, you’d have to ask an evolutionary biologist.
A Geography of Oysters:
The Connoisseur’s Guide to Oyster Eating in North America
By Rowan Jacobsen
New York, NY: Bloomsbury: Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers
Terroir, after all, refers to terra firma, and oysters’ terra isn’t very firma. But it’s a term already familiar to most readers, and speaking of meroir would get you laughed out of most restaurants, so terroir it is.
How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood
By Taras Grescoe
New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA: Distributed to the trade by Macmillan
(Perhaps we should talk of meroir, rather than terroir.)
Sex, Death and Oysters:
A Half-Shell Lover’s World Tour
By Robb Walsh
Berkeley, CA: Counterpoint: Distributed by Publishers Group West
You go out on a boat or visit an oyster farm and eat some quivering mollusks on the spot, rave about your intense perception of terroir (or “merroir,” as the marine version of this poetic sense of place is sometimes known).
A Manifesto on the World’s Most Essential Mineral, with Recipes
By Mark Bitterman
Berkeley, CA : Ten Speed Press
MEROIR: Whenever something of the sea’s character is revealed in a salt, we call that character meroir. An adaptation of the French word terroir (used to describe a wine’s mineral inheritance from the earth), “rneroir” is also used to describe variations in the briny flavor of seafood, such as oysters. Like the earth, the sea comes in different flavors. The salinity of seawater can vary considerably.
Webster’s Wine Bar (Chicago, IL)
MEROIR (an oyster trip to the Hood)
- jq, april 2011
Before even knowing all of that, one could clearly taste the difference – the Blue Pools are saltier, ‘crunchier’ in texture, yet also buttery, smooth, and soft on the finish (and a great pair with Jacquères, by the way). Among many other things, Lissa explained that it only takes about 2 weeks for an oyster to begin to reflect the conditions of its new location, its specific meroir, making it one of the rarest living things to precisely convey a sense of place through the palate… If you haven’t already, taste a Hama Hama or Blue Pool soon at your local Chicago shellfish haunt.
Learned a new word: Meroir. It’s terroir for oysters.
12:26 PM - 26 Apr 11
Howard G. Goldberg
When terroir became meroir for oysters, the word, we might say, underwent a sea change. @FoodWriterDiary
1:01 PM - 26 Apr 11
Wine Country Chef’s Table:
Extraordinary Recipes from Napa and Sonoma
By Roy Breiman and Laura Smith Borrman
Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, an imprint of Globe Pequot Press
Of meroir—the sea version of terroir—Sawyer describes what they do at Hog Island as having a “net gain, net benefit” to the environment.
The Oyster’s My World
05 Jan 2013
MEROIR OR MERROIR? OSTREOPHILE OR OSTREAPHILE?
Posted by theoystersmyworld
Okay, let’s move on to my other gripe, the word, which ALSO only seems to occur in American literature – ‘merroir’. It is an attempt to transfer the accepted concept of the French terroir, which has long been used to explain the varying tastes of, for example, wine, olive oil, tea and cheese, to a marine environment, which is fair enough. No complaints so far, at all. But, for Christ’s sake, the word for earth in French is terre and the French for sea is mer not ‘merr’, both originating from the Latin terra and mare! The simple suffix, which is used a lot in French is -oir(e), often denoting a special place, building or instrument (like >o?dortoir, laboratoire or miroir) has its equivalent in English -ory – eg, territory, dormitory or accessory, and both suffixes are derived from the Latin -orium). It was a common way in New Latin of identifying, especially, a place, building or rooms inside with its particular function. For instance the vomitorium in a Roman amphitheatre was not a place to throw up in but an exit passageway to enable people to leave quickly.
There is absolutely no reason whatever to add an extra ‘r’, so grammatically and etymologically it is obvious that the word should be spelt meroir.