Does it really make a difference...?

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Soil and wine

Margaret O’Hara, Dublin, asks: Can the soil actually contribute to the flavour of a wine. My gut feeling says yes, but I cannot find anything to conclusively support this in literature.

Jasper Morris MW replies: You have touched on an age-old wine question and the answer is that we still don’t really know.

A lot depends on the exact wording of your question: if by ‘the soil’ you mean also the geology beneath as well as the top soil, then the equation becomes more interesting. I think soil certainly affects wine but ‘contributes’ is trickier.

We can’t (yet) say that a particular ingredient in the soil/bedrock contributes its flavour in wine, but we can say that where we find a specific soil or bedrock, we tend to find wines of a particular style.



In Burgundy, for instance, much depends on the balance between clay and limestone in the argilo-calcaire soil structure.

Wines from vineyards with more clay – which would include all those with Argillières in their name – are typically darker in colour, fuller in body and with more tannins than those which have little clay in the soil but much more limestone, where the colour and body are often lighter, the flavour profile more chiselled.

We often tend to include the word ‘mineral’ in the tasting note for the latter style, which brings us back to the original question.

It is not a specific mineral from the soil that we are tasting in the wine, but an overall impression.



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