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Soils for Fine Wines$
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Robert E. White

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195141023

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195141023.001.0001

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Site Selection and Soil Preparation

Site Selection and Soil Preparation

(p.207) 8 Site Selection and Soil Preparation
Soils for Fine Wines

Robert E. White

Oxford University Press

At the Pine Ridge winery in Napa Valley, California, a sign lists six essential steps in wine production. The first step reads . . . Determine the site—prepare the land, terrace the slopes for erosion control, provide drainage and manage soil biodiversity. . . . Determining the site means gathering comprehensive data on the local cli­mate, topography, and geology, as well as the main soil types and their distribu­tion. Traditionally, site determination was done using the knowledge and experi­ence of individuals. Now it is possible to combine an expert’s knowledge with digital data on climate, parent material, topography, and soils in a GIS format to assess the biophysical suitability of land for wine grapes. Viticultural and soil ex­perts together identify the key properties and assign weightings to these proper­ties. An example of an Analytical Hierarchy Process is shown in figure 8.1. In this approach, both objective and subjective data were pooled and evaluated to decide the suitability of land for viticulture in West Gippsland, Victoria. In this region with a relatively uniform, mild climate, soil was given a 70% weighting, and the important soil properties were identified as depth, drainage, sodicity, texture, and pH. But in other areas, with another group of experts, a different set of key prop­erties and weightings may well be identified. For example, a similar approach used in Virginia, in the United States, gave only a 25% weighting to soil and 30% to elevation (which affected temperature, a critical factor governing growth rate and ripening) (Boyer and Wolf 2000). This kind of approach can be refined to indicate site suitability for a partic­ular variety within a region of given macroclimate. For example, Barbeau et al. (1998) assessed the suitability of sites in the Loire Valley, France, for the cultivar Cabernet Franc, using an index of “precocity.” Such an index is related to the ability of the fruit to accumulate sugar and anthocyanins and to attain a favorable acidity.

Keywords:   chalk soils, depth, loess, plant available water, precocity, slope, variability

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