Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, or "Vinny" for short. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the technical aspects of winemaking to the fine points of etiquette. I hope you find my answers educational and even amusing. Looking for a particular answer? Check my archive and my FAQs.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
I understand that soil plays a major role in a grape's ability to ripen and its ultimate flavor profile. However, I am curious as to what extent soil, itself, manifests as a specific flavor component of a finished wine. For example, do particular soils (i.e. chalk, gravel, clay) actually impart their specific flavor into a wine?
—Rebecca L., Chicago
Exactly how soil relates to the flavor of wine is still debated.
We know that great wines come from many different kinds of soil. It's difficult to isolate the influence of soil because there are so many other factors (such as rootstock, trellising, elevation, exposure, and grape variety) to consider.
Like all plants, grapevines seek out nutrients in the soil. And we know that the physical structure of the soil—and how it helps moderate a vine's water supply—has a lot to do with how well a vine does. But while some vintners insist they can tell, there's still no clear proof of how these differences in soil translate into taste.
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