- List of vineyard soil types
The soil composition of vineyards is one of the most important viticultural consideration when planting grape vines. The
soilsupports the rootstructure of the vine and influences the drainage levels and amount of minerals and nutrients that the vine is exposed to. The ideal circumstance for a vine is an area of thin topsoiland subsoilthat sufficiently retains waters but also has good drainage so that the vine roots don't become overly saturated. The ability of the soil to retain heat and/or reflect it back up to the vine is also an important consideration that affects the ripening of the grape. T. Stevenson "The Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia" pg 16 Dorling Kindersley 2005 ISBN 0756613248 ]
There are several minerals that are vital to the health of vines that all good vineyard soils have. These include
calciumwhich helps to neutralize the Soil pHlevels, ironwhich is essential for photosynthesis, magnesiumwhich is an important component of chlorophyll, nitrogenwhich is assimilated in the form of nitrates, phosphateswhich encourages root development, and potassiumwhich improves the vine metabolisms and increases it health for next year's crop.
List of Soil Terms
"Unless otherwise noted the primary reference for this list is Sotheby's Wine Encyclopedia 2005"
*Albariza - Formed by
diatomaceousdeposits. Found in southern Spain
Alluvial soil- Highly fertile soil that has been transported by a river. Often contains gravel, sandand silt.
Basalt- Volcanic rockthat is high in Sodium carbonateand limestone. Very low quartzand potashcontent.
*Boulbènes - Fine
siliceousthat is easily compressed and common in the Entre-Deux-Mersregion of Bordeaux.
*Calcareous soil -
Alkaline soilwith high levels of calcium and Magnesium carbonate. Typically cool in temperature soil that provides good water retention and drainage. Calcareous clay soils have high limestonecontent that neutralizes natural acidity of the soil. However the cool temperatures of the soil normally delay ripening in the grape which tends to produce more acidic wines.
*Carbonaceous soil - Soil produced through the
anaerobic decompositionof rotting vegetation. This type of soil includes anthracite, coal, ligniteand peat.
Chalk- Very poroussoft limestone soil that vine roots can easily penetrate. It provides good drainage and works best for grapes with high acidity levels.
Clay- Sedimentary rockbased soil that has good water retention ability but poor drainage. The soil is often very cool and high in acidity. The Right Bank of Bordeauxis dominated by clay based soils. E. S. Brown " [http://winegeeks.com/articles/139 The World's Top 10 Wine Soils] Wine Geeks 7/5/2007 ]
Dolomite- Calcium-magnesium carbonate soil.
Flint- Siliceous stone that reflects and retain heat well. The Pouilly-Fuméwine of the Loire Valleyis generally produced on Flint-based soil and is said to have "gun-flint" smell in the wine.
Schistbased soil found in the Tuscanyregion of Italy.
Granite- Composed of 40-60% quartz, 30-40% Orthoclaseand various amounts of hornblende, mica, and other minerals. This soil warms quickly and retains heat well. The soil's high level of acidity works to minimize the acid levels in the grapes which works well with acidic grapes like Gamay. It is the main soil type of the Brand region of Alsace.
Gravel- Loose siliceous pebble soil that has good drainage but poor fertility. Vines planted in this type of soil must penetrate deeply to try to and find nutrients in the subsoil. Wine made from vines produces on clay gravel beds have less acidity then those planted on limestone gravel beds. The Gravesregion of Bordeaux and Sauternesis dominated by gravel based soil.
Greywacke- Sedimentary soil formed by rivers depositing quartz, mudstoneand feldspar. It is found in vineyards of Germany, New Zealandand South Africa.
Gypsum- Calcium sulfitebased soil that is formed through the evaporationof seawater. It is a high absorbent soil that has average drainage ability.
Hardpan- A dense layer of clay that is impenetrable by roots and water. In some areas of Bordeaux, a sandy iron-rich layer is located deep enough below the surface to act as a water tablefor the vine.
Keuper- Soil type consisting of marland limestonecommon in Alsacedating back from the Upper Triassicperiod.
*Kimmeridgian soil - A gray colored limestone based soil originally identified in
Kimmeridge, England. Kimmeridgian clay is calcareous clay containing Kimmeridgian limestone. This is the principle soil type of the Loire Valley, Champagne and Burgundyregions.
Lignite- soil type used as fertilizer in Germanyand Champagne. It is a brown colored carbonaceous soil that is an intermediate between peatand coal.
Limestone- Sedimentary based soil consisting of carbonates. The most common colored limestone found in wine producing area is buff-gray in color (with the exception of white chalk). The water retention abilities vary from composition but limestone is consistently alkalineand is generally planted with grapes of high acidity levels. This is the main soil type in the Zinnkoepfléregion of Alsace.
*Llicorella - A soil type found in the
Montsantregion of Spain. The soil is a mix of slate and quartz that dates back to the Paleolithicera. The soil is very porous and drains well. Syrah, Grenacheand Carignanhave done well in this soil type.
Loam- Warm, soft, fertile soil composed of roughly equal amounts of silt, sandand clay. It is typically too fertile for high quality wines that need to limit yields in order to concentrate flavors.
Loess- A silt-based soil composed of wind borne materials that are normally weathered and decalcified. The soil has good water retention and warming properties.
Marl- Calcerous clay-based soil that is cold and adds acidity to the wine. Vine planted in this type of soil normally ripening later than in other soil types. Marlstone is a limestone based clay that acts similar to Marl.
Mica- Silicatebased soil composed of fine, decomposed rock formations.
Muschelkalk-Soil type consisting of various compositions of sandstone, marl, dolomite, and shinglecommon in Alsace dating back from the Middle Triassicperiod.
Perlite- A volcanicsoil type that is light, powdery and lustrous in characteristic with properties similar to diatomaceous earth.
Quartz- Common material found in most vineyard soils-especially sand and silt based soils. The high Soil pHof quartz can reduce the acidity of the resulting wines but its heat retaining properties that stores and reflect heat can increase ripening of the grape which normally results in wine of higher alcohol content.
Sand- warm, airy soil that is composed of tiny particles of weathered rocks. One of the few soils that the phylloxeralouse does not thrive in, the soil drain wells but does not have good water retention. Sandstone is a sedimentary soilcomposed of sand particles that has been pressured bound by various ironbased minerals. This is the main soil type of Kitterléin Alsace.
Schist- Laminated, crystallinerock based soil that retains heat well and is rich in magnesiumand potassiumbut is poor in organic nutrients and nitrogens.
Shale- Fine grain sedimentary based soil that can turn into slatewhen under pressure. The soil is moderately fertile and retains heat well.
*Siliceous soil - Soil composed of
acidrock that are crystalline in nature. The soil has good heat retention but needs the added composition of silt, clayand other sedimentary soils to have any kind of water retention. The range of this soil can include organic materials like Kieselguhrand flintor inorganic materials like quartz. This soil type covers half of the wine regions of Bordeaux.
Silt- Soil type consisting of fine grain deposits that offer good water retention but poor drainage. It is more fertile the sand.
Silex- A flint and sand based soil type found primarily in the Loire Valleythat is a formed from a mixture of clay, limestone and silca.
Slate- Soil type that is the most common found in the Mosel region that is a dark gray, plate like rock that formed when clay, shale, siltstoneand other sediments are subjected to pressure. The soil retains heat well and warms up relatively quickly.
*Steige - A schist based soil found in the
Andlauregion of Alsace. In the Alsace Grand Cru AOCof Kastelberg the soil has metamorphosedwith granitesand to form a hard, dark slate like stone.
Terra Rossa- A sedimentary soil, known as "Red Earth", that is created after carbonateshave been leached out of limestone. The breakdown leaves behind iron deposits which oxidizesand turns the soil a rustic red color. This soil type is found in some areas along the Mediterraneanand in Coonawarra, Australia. The soil drains well and is relatively high in nutrients. Australian winemakers have found some success with Cabernet Sauvignonplantings.
*Volcanic soil - Soil that is created by one of two volcanic activities. 1.) "Vent-based soil" is material that has been ejected into the air, cooled and settled to the earth. These include
pumiceand tufa. 2.) "Lava-based soil" are the product of lavaflows from the volcano. 90 percent of lava-based soil is composed of basaltwith the other ten percent including andesite, pitchstone, rhyolite, and trachyte.
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