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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SUSTAINABLE VINEYARD PRODUCTION SYSTEMS

Location: Crops Pathology and Genetics Research

Title: Soil Health and Wine Quality: how vine health and fruit quality are influenced by soil properties

Authors
item Baumgartner, Kendra
item Cass, Alfred -

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: June 15, 2010
Publication Date: June 15, 2010
Citation: Baumgartner, K., Cass, A. 2010. Soil Health and Wine Quality: how vine health and fruit quality are influenced by soil properties. Meeting Proceedings. 2010.

Interpretive Summary: Wine quality cannot be directly linked to soil health. Factors of soil health are defined by observable scientific fact while wine quality has no scientific basis, consequently these concepts are irreconcilable. Sparse scientific literature on this issue, contrary to popular literature, largely affirms this assertion. However, soil health does influence vine health and can affect fruit quality, which in turn, impact vinification and wine flavors. So, soil health might have indirect effects on defined attributes of wine but if so, is obscured by myth, marketing misinformation and lack of research. Soil health operates in a “Holistic” fashion, but can be reduced to chemical, physical and biological descriptors. Chemical factors are well understood and receive considerable attention from viticultural scientists and practitioners. Physical factors, although understood, are usually neglected because of difficulty in measurement and application. Instead pedalogical descriptors are substituted which often fail to address key aspects of vine performance. Biological factors, aside from pathogens, are poorly characterized taxonomically and functionally and thus are difficult to apply to improve vine health. The disparity in appreciating holistic expression of all three factors in modern viticulture is a deficiency that should be rectified by broadening the view of soil health in the drive to promote sustainable viticulture. We show how the important physical factors, hardness, available water and aeration, strongly influenced by biological health, coupled with chemical factors and vine attributes, interact to affect root functionality and illustrate how manipulation of this interdependence may improve uniformity of ripening, thereby enhancing fruit quality.

Technical Abstract: Wine quality cannot be directly linked to soil health. Factors of soil health are defined by observable scientific fact while wine quality has no scientific basis, consequently these concepts are irreconcilable. Sparse scientific literature on this issue, contrary to popular literature, largely affirms this assertion. However, soil health does influence vine health and can affect fruit quality, which in turn, impact vinification and wine flavors. So, soil health might have indirect effects on defined attributes of wine but if so, is obscured by myth, marketing misinformation and lack of research. Soil health operates in a “Holistic” fashion, but can be reduced to chemical, physical and biological descriptors. Chemical factors are well understood and receive considerable attention from viticultural scientists and practitioners. Physical factors, although understood, are usually neglected because of difficulty in measurement and application. Instead pedalogical descriptors are substituted which often fail to address key aspects of vine performance. Biological factors, aside from pathogens, are poorly characterized taxonomically and functionally and thus are difficult to apply to improve vine health. The disparity in appreciating holistic expression of all three factors in modern viticulture is a deficiency that should be rectified by broadening the view of soil health in the drive to promote sustainable viticulture. We show how the important physical factors, hardness, available water and aeration, strongly influenced by biological health, coupled with chemical factors and vine attributes, interact to affect root functionality and illustrate how manipulation of this interdependence may improve uniformity of ripening, thereby enhancing fruit quality.

Last Modified: 4/20/2014
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