The world’s best wine growing appellations have relatively poor, inhospitable soils, which while not ideal for most types of agriculture, are perfect for growing vinifera grapes. One of the most important factors in the terroir of a vineyard is the dirt, or should we say rocks? At the heart of our vineyard, it is mostly rocky/stony soil. Due to the quantity of rocks on the site, our vineyard development was initially challenging and actually broke our industrial-sized rock crusher! Although at first viewed as burdensome, the rocks have became a key asset for the soils.
Vineyard soils have a major influence on wine character and taste, hence the French expression, goût de terroir or “taste of the earth”. Grapevine roots are remarkable, they can penetrate dozens of feet into soil in their search for water and nutrients, and they continue to grow throughout the vines’ lives. This means that the physical properties of the soil are important and its minerality fundamental to growing premium grapes.
Gravel soils allow for superior drainage, which is paramount to the vines and grapes. Winemakers are so convinced of this, some have gone to extremes to study the differences. Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon fame, for example conducted a wacky experiment adding rocks directly to wine to investigate their influence on flavour, which he believes added, “far more complexity and greater persistence on the palate”. UK wine writer Jamie Goode explores this in depth in his book, The Science of Wine from Vine to Glass.
Although we do not literally add rocks to our wine, the abundant rocks in our soil at Vanessa beneficially act to stress the vines. They also reflect sunshine to the leaves and berries, and allow the day heat to be harnessed and imparted throughout the cooler nights, thereby aiding in the ripening process. Additionally, our gentle sloping hillside and southwest exposure are optimal for the vines as they directly benefit from the afternoon sun, which contributes to the lengthening of the growing season and the production of intensely ripe fruit. With these factors the fruit is able to capture the minerality of the soils on which it grows that are unique to the land, and allows Vanessa Vineyard to produce fruit of the highest quality, with flavours and minerality that are distinctive.
It is this delightful sensation of minerality that is so prized among many wine enthusiasts and with Valentine’s approaching, we love that we have a stony heart…