When wine pros talk about terroir (which they do, endlessly), they mean all the qualities of a place that influence the taste of its winesfrom the climate to the soil's minerals. Indeed, the subsoil below the top layer of earth has a huge influence on a wine's flavor.
Wine Region: Mosel, Germany
Soil Type: Slate
Impact: Rieslings have a distinctive flinty edge.
Bottle to Try: 2008 Selbach-Oster Kabinett ($19)
Wine Region: Chablis, France
Soil Type: Limestone
Impact: These whites smell like oyster shells.
Bottle to Try: 2008 Gilbert Picq & ses Fils ($22)
Plus: 5 Terrific Chablis
Video: Ray Isle on How to Smell Wine
Wine Region: Right Bank Bordeaux, France
Soil Type: Clay
Impact: Reds, mainly Merlot, are soft and plush.
Bottle to Try: 2006 Clos de l'Oratoire Saint-Émilion ($40)
Wine Region: Left Bank Bordeaux, France
Soil Type: Gravel
Impact: Reds are firm; Cabernet reigns.
Bottle to Try: 2006 Les Fiefs de Lagrange Saint-Julien ($30)
Wine Region: Santorini, Greece
Soil Type: Volcanic
Impact: The whites taste especially minerally.
Bottle to Try: 2008 Boutari Santorini ($20)