Back in November, I attended a CreativeMornings session in Raleigh, North Carolina. CreateMornings is “TED talks for the everyday.” The Raleigh chapter held its third session about a month ago, and the meeting featured Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko of Raleigh Denim, a local jean company that uses traditional constructions methods and has recently taken the national fashion community by storm (they’ve been featured in GQ, Monocle, New York Magazine, Lucky, Esquire and Southern Living, to name a few).
Sarah told stories that illustrated the creative processes that guided them along their startup journey, and Victor supplemented his wife’s tales with introspective and often etherial thoughts. My inner-entrepreneurial geek settled into the fascinating presentation about the small upstart—that happens to be the only United States jeans producer to own its manufacturing counterpart—when Victor mentioned “terroir.”
You read that correctly. Long ago, we started to associate wine with its terroir, or the surrounding environment (geography, weather, location) that give an object its characteristics. More recently, discussions of terroir have become more prevalent in the beer world. The Times even did a piece on the subject in June, and micro-maltsters base entire business models around the notion.
Now, not only is the beer in our tulip glasses discussed in terms of the moisture of the soil in which its barley grew, but our low-rise, close-fitting jeans have retained characteristics unique to the climate where its cotton was sourced. (All About Beer Magazine contributing writer Stan Hieronymus has written more about the terroir of beer for DRAFT Magazine and on his blog, and there is no dearth of commentary about defining “local” when it comes to beer.)
Instead of framing the discussion in terms of manufacturer size, Victor used “terroir” to separate his jeans, a former commodity that can now command upwards of $250 for a pair, from the likes of Lee, Levi’s and Wrangler. As once-small craft breweries significantly increase their production and enlarge their distribution footprints, will the conversation similarly switch from barrelage to terroir to separate this former commodity that can now command upwards of $160 for a bottle?