What Effects Soil Types Have on the Wines We Drink

What Effects Soil Types Have on the Wines We Drink

What Effects Soil Types Have on the Wines We Drink?

To characterize wine in connection to the location or soils where it is developed, wine aficionados would use terms like “Rutherford dust” and “Chablis minerality,” to name a few examples. When it comes to wine tasting, there are a variety of elements to consider, but the soil is important in terms of the qualities of the wine and the capacity of the vines to develop.

Moreover, although the term terroir is often used to define a wine’s “feeling of place” — which refers to the regional microclimates and grape varietals that are farmed — when it comes to soil, we’ll have to dig a bit deeper (pun intended) to understand why it is so important.

Understanding the Formation of Different Soils

Many research studies have been conducted throughout the years in order to better understand the various soil types found in wine-producing locations.

On the specific mechanism by which soil influences a wine’s flavor, many academics and other professionals may disagree. Taking a step back, let’s consider how the Earth’s genesis and development have influenced the wines that humans consume;

how we got from stardust to a glass of Barolo. Not to worry, you won’t need a geology degree to comprehend what I’m about to share with you.

A variety of historical events have had a significant impact on the wines we drink since the planet has been developed and transformed through time.

Almost all of us are aware that, when the tectonic plates shift, a place that was formerly underwater may suddenly be above ground.

Tectonic plate movement caused the crust to shift, pushing some parts upwards and others below as a result of the movement. In fact, these layers of diverse soil types were mostly merely along for the journey.

Earth of the Kimmeridgian Period (Kimmeridgian Soil)

Several French wine-producing regions, including Champagne, Burgundy, and the Loire Valley, are built on a kind of soil known as Kimmeridgian, which is made up of a mix of limestone, clay, and fossilized oyster shells.

Because a friend of mine just visited Domaine William Fèvre and handed me a piece of rock from their vines, I was able to complete my project. However, for those of you who do not have a copy of Chablis on your bookshelf, you may learn more about this very distinctive soil type by visiting this website.

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that grapevines can directly extract chemical compounds from the soils, but they do provide a particular minerality to the wines of Chablis, Sancerre, and even Champagne, which distinguishes them from wines from other locations.

Influences of Volcanic Activity

The movement of earth tectonic plates did not cause all soil types, however; others were created as a consequence of volcanic eruptions.

Most people are familiar with the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. That still-active volcano erupted not once, not twice, but multiple times, wiping out the Roman colonies of Pompeii and Herculaneum and causing the extinction of the human race.

What goes up must eventually fall down! And once all the dust settled, the boulders, ashes, and hot magma remained in the soils for all time, becoming a permanent part of the landscape. In modern times, Vesuvio is a separate area with vineyards growing on its slopes, which are a result of the volcano’s ongoing activity.

Even while many scientists believe that wines cannot be influenced by the characteristics of their soils, the soil types in this region enable particular grape varieties to thrive and produce wines with smokey, mineral qualities.


Located in France’s Rhone Valley, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area exhibits yet another example of how Mother Nature has influenced the wine industry. Floodwaters surged through the valley after the last Ice Age, depositing boulders and producing the oval-shaped stones, known as galets, that can be seen in many of the region’s vineyards.

Around the vines are circular stones that help to retain heat throughout the day, allow for good drainage, and function as a barrier against the different soil types underneath them.

Consider the galets to be a solar-powered heating blanket that keeps the grapevines warm and comfortable at night. Such large stones are also found in the Rueda area of Spain, where they aid in the creation of adequate drainage at the top layers of diverse soil types while also safeguarding the more water-retaining soils underneath them, as seen in the photo above.

Granulometry is the study of the structure and size of soil particles, and scientists working in this discipline are interested in how different crops will develop in different soil types and compositions.

However, there are a variety of soil types under the layers of rocks in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape area. The famed Chateau Rayas, for example, does not have any galets and instead has a vineyard that is more classic-looking.

This is a perfect illustration of how the physical characteristics of the soil may influence the growth of grape vines, and even the quality of the wine produced from those grape wines.

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What Effects Soil Types Have on the Wines We Drink?

Profiling of the Soil

Another research that is carried out on vineyards all around the globe is soil profiling. The purpose of this investigation is to examine not just the top layers of the earth, but also all of the layers underneath them, including the manner in which they were produced as the world we know today was developed.

Grapevine roots may reach depths of up to fifteen feet, thus the layers under the surface can impact the flavor of wine as the vines tap into the different soil types, each of which affects how the vine develops and, eventually, how the grapes taste as they ripen.

This is typically attributed to the complexity of a wine made from grapes from extremely ancient vineyards, and it is considered to be the case as well.

During this stage, we begin to examine the chemical and biological components of soil. Without getting too scientific, the soil is made up of a range of different components that combine to form a cohesive whole.

These molecules contain the nutrients that the grapevine needs in order to develop successfully. However, grapevines thrive on soils that are not too rich in nutrients, but rather deficient in particular nutrients and well-balanced.

Nutrients are essential for grapevine growth and reproduction since they are required for growth and reproduction. However, when used in excess, it might have undesirable implications, such as the development of vegetative odors such as green beans.

Potassium deficiency in soil may cause problems with fruit ripening, resulting in the fruit not ripening correctly. A high level of salt in the soil might have detrimental consequences as well.

The pH levels of soil are another crucial factor that affects the vine’s capacity to absorb the nutrients that it needs to grow. When it comes to wine, you’ll hear a lot about pH levels being discussed.

It is also used by winemakers to assess the maturity of grapes in relation to the acidity of the wine. Vine varieties with lower pH tend to create crisper wines, whilst vine varieties with higher pH are more vulnerable to bacterial development.

Identifying the Different Types of Soils

There are four basic kinds of soils used in viticulture, which are distinguished by their characteristics: sandy, clay-based, silty, and loamy.

Types of Sandy Soils

Elegant wines are produced by sandy soils, which are often lower in tannins and greater in aromatics. Take, for example, the Cabernet Sauvignons cultivated in the Graves area of Bordeaux, which is known for their more sandy soils.

The red wines produced in this area are much lighter in style than their counterparts produced in the further northern Medoc region. Sandy soils have also been previously recognized as being resistant to the Phylloxera fungus.

Types of Clay Soils

Clay soils, such as those found in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain, aid in the production of robust wines. The clay soils assist the vines in maintaining a lower temperature in these hotter growing locations.

Types of Silty Soils

Silt-based soils, such as those found in Washington (which was also developed as a result of the Ice Age’s aftereffects), are noted for assisting in the production of rounder-type wines that are somewhat less acidic in flavor and texture.

Types of Loam Soils

Loam soils, such as those found in Napa and Sonoma Valley, are a combination of the elements listed above with the addition of organic matter.

There are many more soil types that are mixtures, including alluvial, sandstone, and shale, each of which imparts a distinct character to the wines produced by grapes growing on it.

As a result, grapevines need food and water to survive — as well as, of course, sunlight — in order to thrive. Soils assist in regulating climatic variations, retaining heat, and even aiding in the dispersal of water.

The depth and character of the soil, nutrients, drainage and water retention, pH, and other factors all have an impact on the wines we consume.

Our wonderful wines would not be possible if it weren’t for these soils and the delicate balance of all of the constituent ingredients that they provide.

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