The Science of Wine (1/2)

Wine

12/12/2016

A passion built on knowledge

The rise of winemaking as an academic field during the 20th century and the resulting body of research have brought about scientific advances that have changed the wine world. Today's wines are top-quality products that not only respect, but reinforce the environment while creating a social fabric built on knowledge and the transmission of values. When these find expression in the glass, they produce unforgettable wines and moments.

The renowned French enologist Pascal Chatonnet defines terroir as “the interaction between a specific environment—its climate and geological profile—and human psychology and culture, which gives rise to a distinctive personality.”

We'll focus on the latter aspect—the human factor—and how science contributes to producing wines of a quality that was unimaginable a century ago. The following scientific areas are among the most important:

Climatology

Understanding the weather phenomena that occur in a given climate is crucial to winegrowing.

Climatology provides us with information on important factors such as the average temperature and its variations, hours of sunshine, average annual rainfall, as well as data on humidity and wind.

Climatology is closely linked to vintage quality, because it directly influences the work that is carried out in the vineyard and the winery.

Winckler and Huglin are the leading climatic indexes, which are particularly interesting when it comes to identifying the best varieties to plant in order to achieve the greatest varietal expression.

In terms of how climate influences wine type, we can generally say that cooler regions produce wines with higher acidity, lower alcohol content, and fresh, straightforward fruit. By contrast, warm-region wines have higher alcohol, less pronounced acidity, and warm, ripe fruit expression.

Geosciences: geology, soil science and geomorphology

Geology

This scientific discipline studies the mineral composition, structure and evolution of the soil. Conducting these studies involves soil core sampling—exploring a piece of land by drilling or boring into the soil to identify its mineral content—to a depth of over 170 cm.

The best wines reflect the type of soil and its geological characteristics, which represent one of the most expressive and prized aspects of single vineyard wines.

Geomorphology

This scientific discipline studies the elevation, topography, slope and orientation of a plot of land. These are all key factors to keep in mind when setting up a new vineyard.

Soil science

Soil science studies the physical and chemical properties of the components that make up the soil. In terms of chemical properties, we measure parameters like pH, calcium carbonate and organic matter. As for physical properties, here the focus is on soil texture, depth and water holding capacity.

Grapevines grow in soils composed of differently sized rock particles, humus (decomposing organic matter) and nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). The ideal soil type is poor in nutrients, well drained and capable of retaining enough water for the plant to grow while preventing the kind of excessive vigor that would decrease the quality of the grapes.

In addition, soil science provides us with the information we need when selecting the best rootstock for new plantings.

Categorías: Wine