What is terroir? Strictly speaking ‘terroir’ is not just the soil the vines grow in. It includes geography, geology, climate and the local wine and culinary culture.
Clay: Clay soil has very little porosity, so the water doesn’t penetrate very easily and root growth can be more difficult. This can give wine much greener characteristics and a lack of depth, however some percentage of clay between pebbles may be very suitable for Cabernet Sauvignon in hotter climates (like in Chile for example).
Sedimentary rock: These easily broken down rocks can give a lot of structure and power to a wine depending on its origin. So if you grow Pinot Noir on calcareous sedimentary rock for example it would take on more dark fruit, spice characteristics and complexity.
Sand: Sand is easy for the vines to grow in, so they don’t struggle and tend to produce much lighter, fruitier wines with abundant growth. This is more suitable for high yield wines.
** Disclaimer: These are all general rules, there are always differences and exceptions. Winemaking is not an exact art, especially in the vineyard.
By Amanda Barnes
Published in the October/November 2012 edition of Wine Republic