Understanding Soils

Below is a list of soil terms (an alphabetical process – keep checking back). The primary reference for this list is Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia 2005.

Reference is from a mix of Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia mixed with my own references from the region.

Albariza – Formed by diatomaceous deposits. Found in Southern Spain, especially Jerez where Sherry is produced.

Alluvial soil – Highly fertile soil that has been transported by a river. Often contains gravel, sand, and silt.

Calcareous: Alkaline soil with high levels of calcium and Magnesium carbonate.

Chalk – Very porous soft limestone soil that vine roots can easily penetrate. It provides good drainage and works best for grapes with high acidity levels.

Clay – Sedimentary rock based on soil that has good water retention ability but poor drainage. The soil is often very cool and high in acidity. The Right Bank of Bordeaux is dominated by clay based soils.

Flint – Siliceous stone that reflects and retain heat well.

Galestro – Schist based soil found in the Tuscany region of Italy.

Granite – Composed of 40 – 60 percent quartz, 30 – 40 percent orthoclase, and various amounts of hornblende, mica, and other minerals. The soil warms quickly and retains heat well. The soil’s high level of acidity works to maintain the acid levels in the grapes which works well with acidic grapes like Gamay.

Gravel – Loose siliceous pebble soil that has good drainage but poor fertility. Vines planted in this type of soil must penetrate deeply to find nutrients in the subsoil. Wines made from vines produced on clay gravel beds have less acidity than those planted on limestone gravel beds.

Kimmeridge – This is Calcareous clay containing Kimmeridgian limestone.

Slate – Soil type consisting of fine grain deposits that offer good water retention but poor drainage. More fertile than sand.

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