Wine 101: Terms: Soil

It’s a long way from the U.S. to New Zealand. Luckily, Whitehaven brings Marlborough to us in the form of undeniably aromatic, racy-with-acidity Sauvignon Blanc. It’s a style we’ve fallen in love with stateside, and Whitehaven shows that style in spades.

Soil is defined as “mineral material at the earth’s surface formed by weathering of underlying bedrock or transported sediments which form the parent material of soil.” Rain breaks down rock, and a myriad of minerals are left to make up the land’s soil. There’s quartz, iron, calcium, graphite, clay, etc. All of these components contribute to the soil’s cation exchange capacity (CEC), or the amount of positively charged atoms that the soil can hold. However, too many nutrients make for fertile soil, and that’s not good for wine.

Optimal wine soil is a lot more complex than that. We have to consider pH levels, nitrogen, oxygen — courtesy of our wormy friends — and potassium, to name a few factors. It all affects the vigor of the vines, their ripening rates, and, ultimately, the health of the fruit.

Water also has to be considered here. We want good drainage, but not too much. We want a steady water supply, but not too steady. The vines need to grow, but also need to be restrained. It’s all a Goldilocks situation, but that’s what makes the juice worth the squeeze.

“They” say that “everything starts in the vineyard,” and today, we’re gonna prove “them” right. In this episode, we dive deep into the earth and take a trip across the periodic table as we analyze soil. What is it, and why does it matter in viticulture? Tune in for more.

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“Wine 101” was produced, recorded, and edited by yours truly, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair headquarters in New York City. I want to give a big old shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for creating VinePair. Big shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for creating the most awesome logo for this podcast. Also, Darby Cicci for the theme song. Listen to this. And I want to thank the entire VinePair staff for helping me learn something new every day. See you next week.

E. & J. Gallo Winery is excited to sponsor this episode of VinePair’s “Wine 101.” Gallo always welcomes new friends to wine with an amazingly wide spectrum of favorites, ranging from everyday to luxury and sparkling wine. (Gallo also makes award-winning spirits, but this is a wine podcast.) Whether you are new to wine or an aficionado, Gallo welcomes you to wine. Visit today to find your next favorite, where shipping is available.