On April 13, 2019, Professor Gérard Seguin passed away at the age of 82. Professor Seguin was a creative and enlightened researcher and a much respected professor in soil and terroir sciences at Bordeaux University. Encouraged by his mentor, the late Emile Peynaud, he developed a whole new field of research on the influence of soil and climate on vine development, grape composition and wine quality, referred to as “terroir”. As early as 1969 he published a paper in which restricted but regular water supply to the vines was shown to be a key factor in wine quality, a result which has been confirmed by many researchers ever since (Seguin, 1969). In this study, the water uptake of the vines was quantified with a neutron moisture probe, a highly innovative technique for that time. Unfortunately, this ground-breaking paper came out in a period when most European researchers published in their own language. Only in 1986 Seguin published a review paper about the effect of terroir in viticulture in English (Seguin, 1986). Seguin was also convinced that high terroir expression is only possible when grapes ripen at the end of the growing season, in relatively cool conditions (van Leeuwen and Seguin, 2006). This concept is gaining importance as the climate warms up. Seguin was one of the first researchers to study terroir on a scientific basis and certainly the very first to understand that its effect can only be understood by a multi-disciplinary approach, considering interactions between the climate and the vine and the soil and the vine. After his retirement in 1998, he was happy to see that terroir is gaining international recognition as an important aspect in winegrowing, as shown by terroir conferences organized all around the world, in Davis California in 2006, in Oregon in 2016 and one scheduled in Adelaide in 2020.
Gérard Seguin was also a highly respected professor, unanimously appreciated by his students. He took his teaching mission very seriously, spending hours on fine tuning his lectures. He was able to explain complex issues in soil science in a perfectly clear way. He was close to his students and always ready to take their defense. In the management of his lab, he left as much freedom as necessary to his staff and doctoral students to develop innovative research, but he imposed everyone to be present at the coffee break of 9 am. This was not only a moment to discuss private matters and share impressions about last night’s good bottles, but also a place where many good research ideas emerged. This is certainly a point to consider in our ever busier schedules, where time for social interactions is more and more limited. We are sad to say farewell to Professor Seguin but we are grateful for his tremendous legacy.
- Seguin G., 1969. Alimentation en eau de la vigne dans des sols du Haut-Médoc. Connaissance Vigne Vin, 3, 93-141.
- Sequin G., 1986. “Terroirs” and pedology of vinegrowing. Experientia, 42, 861-873.
- van Leeuwen C. and Seguin G., 2006. The concept of terroir in viticulture. J. Wine Res., 17, n°1, 1-10.
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