Soils

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Alluvial
Fertile soil that has been transported down a slope, usually by a river or stream. At the bottom of the slope, alluvial soil usually forms a fan that contains gravel, sand, and silt.

Where alluvial soils are found:
- Napa Valley, especially near the area of western Oakville at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains
Basalt
Cooled lava from volcanic rock that is high in calcium, iron, and magnesium.

Where basalt soils are found:
- Willamette Valley of Oregon
Calcareous
Alkaline soil with high levels of calcium and magnesium carbonate. Often calcareous soils are "cool," which means they retain water and delay ripening, thereby leading to more acidic wines.

Where calcareous soils are found:
-
Chalk
Very porous, soft limestone soil that vine roots can easily penetrate.

Where chalk is found:
- A classic soil in Champagne
Flint
Siliceous stone (sedimentary rocks that contain silica from silica-secreting organisms such as diatoms and some types of sea sponges) that reflects sun and heat well.

Where siliceous stone soils are found:
- Pouilly-Fume
Galestro
Schist-based soil found in the Tuscany region of Italy
Gneiss
A course-grained form of granite
Granite
A hard, mineral-rich soil that is composed of 40-60% quartz. The soil warms quickly and retains heat well. Thus, granite soils are ideal with acidic grapes like gamay.

Where granite soils are found:
- Beaujolais
- Cornas
Gravel
Soil that is loose and pebbly and has good drainage and poor fertility. Vines planted in this type of soil must penetrate deeply to find nutrients in the subsoil.

Where gravel soils are found:
- Graves
- Sauternes
-
Greywacke
Sedimentary soil fomred by rivers depositing quarts, mudstone, and feldspar.

Where greywacke is found:
- Germany, New Zealand, South Africa
Hardpan
A dense layer of clay or other material that is impermeable to water. In some areas of Bordeaux, a sandy, iron-rich layer is located deep enough below the surface to act as the bottom of a water table for the vines.

Where hardpans are found:
- Bordeaux
Limestone
A wide range of sedimentary-based soils consisting of calcium carbonates, many of which are formed from the skeletal fragments of marine organisms. Limestone is consistently alkaline and is generally planted with grapes of high acidity levels. Becuase limestone is a remnant of some ancient seabeds, certain islands (including the Florida Keys) are made from limestone.

Where limestone soils are found:
- Burgundy
- Champagne
- Loire Valley
Llicorella
A soil type found in the Priorat appellation of Spain. The soil is a mix of slate and quartz that is very porous and drains well.
Loam
Warm, soft, fertile soil composed of roughly equal amounts of silt, sand, and clay. It is typically too fertile for high-quality wines.

Where loam is found:
-
Loess
Very fine, silt-based soil composed of wind-borne sediment that is typically angular and decalcified. the soil has good water retention and warming properties.
Where loess soils are found:
- Austria
- Washington State, especially along the border of Oregon in Yakima Valley, Red Mountain, and Walla Walla
Marl
Calcareous clay-based soil that is "cool" and thus delays ripening, resulting in wines with prominent acidity. Marl is typically deep and lacking in stone fragments.

Where marl soils are found:
- Piedmont - main soil type there
-
Quartz
A common material found in sand and silt-based soils. The high soil pH of quartz can reduce the acidity of the resulting wines. But quartz also stores heat, so it can increase ripening of the grapes.

Where quartz soils are found:
- lower Nahe
Sand
Warm, airy soil that is composed of tiny particles of weathered rocks. One of the few soils that the insect phylloxera does not thrive in. The soil drains well but does not have good water retention.

Where sandy soils are found:
- Santa Barbara CA
- Jumilla, southeastern Spain
- Bairrada - better for the whites of the region
Sandstone
A sedimentary soil composed of sand particles that has been pressure-bound by various iron-based minerals.

Where Sandstone is found:
- Brunello di Montalcino in Tuscany
Schist
Laminated, crystalline rock-based soil that retains heat well and is rich in magnesium and potassium, but is poor in organic nutrients and nitrogen.

Where schist soils are found:
- upper slopes of Alsace's Andlau region
- Priorat
Shale
Fine-grain sedimentary-based soil that can turn into slate when under geologic pressure. The soil is moderately fertile and retains heat well.

Where shale soils are found:
- Finger Lakes
Silex
A flint and sand based soil type that is formed from a mixture of clay, limestone, and silica.

Where silex soils are found:
- Loire Valley
Silt
Soil type consisting of fine-grain deposits that offer good water retention but poor drainage. It is more fertile than sand.
Slate
A metamorphic, platelike rock formed when shale, clay, or silt-stone is subjected to pressure deep within the earth. The soil retains heat well and warms up relatively quickly.

Where slate soils are found:
- Mosel
Terra Rossa
A sedimentary soil, known as "red earth," that is formed after carbonates have been leached out of limestone. The breakdown leaves behind iron deposits that oxidize and turn the soil a rustic red color.

Where terra rossa is found:
- Coonawarra, Australia
Tufa
A highly friable calcareous soil created from exploding volcanic rock flung into the air.

Where tufa is found:
- Loire Valley
Volcanic
Soil that is derived from one of two volcanic activities:
- Vent-based volcanic soil is formed from rock material or molten globules that have been ejected at high velocity into the air and then have cooled before settling to the earth (such as tufa).
- Lava-based volcanic soil is the product of molten lava flows from a volcano. 90% of lava-based soil is basalt.
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