Tuesday, May 8, 2012
THE SOIL: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT FACTORS TO GET HIGH QUALITY WINES
When we talk about "terroir" we are referring to a group of terms involved in the winegrowing. One of them is the weather. Obviously rainfall conditions, daily hours of sunshine or average temperature in a particular area, are characteristics that set the future qualities of the grapes harvested. Another factor is, of course, the vines. If an area has lighting or thermal conditions, some varieties of vines are suitables than others to offer the best quality wines. We can talk about other factors, on the other hand very important, as the human activity, called viticulture, but it´s not part of the "terroir". Viticulture is the group of actions that human do in the vineyard to improve the final results we´ll obtain naturally. Into the concept of "terroir", we briefly discuss one of the most forgotten, but on the other hand, one of the most important factor that set the most important parameters of the wine. This is the soil. Soil characteristics, give the wine the aging potential. In our area of winemaking (Gimileo - Rioja Alta), we have one of the most popular and sought soils worldwide to get high quality wines: the calcareous clay soil.
Soil sequence in Viña Hermosa vineyard at Bodegas SANTALBA
The profile of this soil type is very simple and consists of an initial layer of gravel with abundant clay matrix. No more than one or two meters deep, appear the weathered rock. Weathering is the effect of rock disintegration by the effect of erosion phenomena, in this case is water and which also generates a draining effect, very interesting to avoid waterlogging into the vineyard. Under this rock appears the bedrock, or intact rock. This layer, with hundreds of meters in depth, is the real key for this soil quality, because the roots of the vines do not stop here, they look for cracks in the rock and they advance drilling through the rock. As result we have slow-growing vines, with hard conditions that offer high quality grapes. We have always said that this soil type is very simple, but more complicated is to find it in union with adequate rainfall conditions, sufficient sunshine and an appropriate thermal gradient. But this is very interesting and we´ll talk about in following chapters.