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The influence of soil on wine

05/07/2023 Winemaking

The making of a good wine begins in the vineyard. Elements as important as selecting grape varieties, and each of the decisions made in the vineyard, have a significant impact on the final result of the wine. However, the same grape and the same winegrower, in one soil or another, obtain totally different results. Terroir plays a fundamental role in the production and characteristics of a wine. Factors such as the chemical composition of the soil, its structure, drainage and water retention capacity directly affect the qualities of the grapes and, therefore, the wines they produce.

Main characteristics of soil:

- Chemical composition

Different soil types contain specific minerals and nutrients that can affect vine growth and, ultimately, the flavour and characteristics of the wine.

- Drainage

Soils with good drainage capacity allow the roots of the vines to spread out and search for nutrients, and are able to store enough water to support the vines during their development, contributing to greater complexity and quality in the wine.

- Retention capacity

Soils with balanced water retention capacity can help grapes ripen optimally, influencing the concentration of flavours and sugars in the berries and, therefore, in the resulting wine.

- Structure

The arrangement of soil components is a key property that influences its physical, chemical and biological properties. A good structure is essential for good drainage and water retention, as well as for microbial life and biological processes in the soil.

Based on these characteristics, we can find an infinite number of soil types. However, as a general rule, we can classify vineyard soils into 6 major groups that influence the behaviour of wines.

Soil types:

1- Clay soils

These soils contain a high proportion of clay particles, which gives them a good water and nutrient retention capacity. Clay soils tend to produce wines with body, structure and concentration of flavours.

2- Limestone soils

These soils are composed mainly of calcium carbonate and other minerals. Limestone soils are usually well drained and have a high water retention capacity. These soils often contribute to wines with high acidity, elegance and distinctive mineral notes.

3- Sandy soils

Sandy soils are composed mainly of sand particles, which gives them a loose structure and rapid drainage. These soils allow good water infiltration and root aeration. Wines produced in sandy soils tend to be lighter, fresher and fruitier.

4- Volcanic soils

These soils are formed from volcanic material, such as ash and lava. They are known for their high drainage and heat retention capacity. Volcanic soils often give the wines vibrant acidity, mineral notes and a distinctive smoky touch.

5- Granite soils

They originate from the decomposition of granite, an igneous rock. They are rich in minerals, usually have good drainage capacity and tend to transmit mineral characteristics to the wines, with notes of slate and marked acidity.

6- Alluvial soils

These soils are formed from sediments deposited by water currents, such as rivers and streams. The soils are well drained and rich in nutrients. Alluvial soils can vary in composition, but tend to produce wines with good structure and balance.

It should be noted that this categorisation is generic, but in reality most soils have intermediate characteristics and each vineyard and winegrowing region offers specific characteristics that influence the profile of the wine. If we add to that the influence of climate and viticultural practices, what we get is an infinity of types of wines that, fortunately, we can discover all over the world. You can enjoy many of them at Decántalo.