Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Which soil types are the best for vineyards?
—Angel, Edinburg, Texas
There are infinite variations on the basic soil categories of clay, sand, loam, limestone, chalk, gravel, etc. —every terroir is unique!—but there is no universal “best” soil. What works best where depends on the grapes being grown and the climate they're grown in. In general, vines do well in soils that both retain some water but also provide drainage.
It gets complicated beyond that. For example, sandy soils drain quickly, making them excellent for areas that might sometimes get too much rain. Clay soils, on the other hand, retain water. Loam is very fertile, but that means that vineyards become overly vigorous, which isn't great if you’re trying to limit yields or concentrate flavors …
Other considerations include how well a soil retains or reflects heat, how acidic the soil is, how resistant it is to pests, and how easily it can be penetrated by a vine's roots, among lots and lots of other factors.