The Geology of Viniculture: An Introduction

"Great wines require old vines, poor soil, and rich men." - Proverb

The wonderment of the connection between the earth and the vine began with the first glass of wine, and continues unabated today. Indeed, it seems that the discussion and study of terroir is even more prevalent, passionate, and perplexing than it has ever been. And in spite of the inevitable marketing overhype or chauvinistic protectionism by some wine makers who argue for the greatness and uniqueness of their terroir, there is a growing body of evidence that terroir can indeed be fundamentally important for producing high quality...even great...wines.

The science of geology includes understanding the formation of the mountains, valleys and plains upon which vineyards grow, the climatic and geographic dynamics that effect the rocks and soils in those areas, and the chemistry of the groundwaters and soils into which the vines send their roots. It is the fundamental science, along with biology, that can help answer many, and hopefully most, but never all, of the questions we ask ourselves about the connection between the earth and the vine, leading to that glass of wine... It therefore encompasses a significant portion of the concept of terroir.

The Geology of Viniculture: A Reference List


J. Fanet, 2004. Great Wine Terroirs. University of California Press, 239 pp.

C. Frankel, 2014. Land and Wine: The French Terroir. University of California Press, 251 pp.

M. A. Matthews, 2015. Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing. University of California Press, 308 pp.

J. Swinchatt and D.G. Howell, 2004. The Winemakers Dance: Exploring Terroir in the Napa Valley.
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J. E. Wilson, 1999. Terroir: The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines.
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Geology/Soil and Grape/Wine
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R. E. White, 2003. Soils for Fine Wines. Oxford University Press, 279 pp.

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G. Faure, 1991. Principles and Applications of Inorganic Geochemistry. MacMillan, 626 pp.

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Soil Science
N. C. Brady and R.R. Weil, 2010. Elements of the Nature and Properties of Soils. Third Edition, Prentice Hall, 614 pp.

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Wine Chemistry
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Wine Minerality
G. Asher, 2011. A Vineyard in My Glass. University of California Press, 279 pp.

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A. Maltman, 2013. Minerality in wine: a geological perspective. Journal of Wine Research, 24(3):169-181.

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Geochemical Provenance - Chemical
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P. P. Coetzee, F. P. van Jaarsveld, and F. Vanhaecke, 2014. Intraregional classification of wine via ICP-MS elemental fingerprinting. Food Chemistry, 164:485-492.

A. Cugnetto, L. Santagostini, L. Rolle, S. Guidoni, V. Gerbi, and V. Novello, 2014. Tracing the "terroirs" via elemental composition of leaves, grapes and derived wines in cv Nebbiolo (Vitis vinifera L.). Scientia Horticulturae, 172:101-108.

M. Gastol and I. Domagala-Swiatkiewicz, 2014. Trace Element Partitioning in 'Siberia" Grapevines as Affected by Nitrogen Fertilisation. South African Journal of Enological Viticulture, 35(2):217-225.

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V. S. Selih, M. Sala, and V. Drgan, 2014. Multi-element analysis of wines by ICP-MS and ICP-OES and their classification according to geographical origin in Slovenia. Food Chemistry, 153:414-423.

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Geochemical Provenance - Isotopic
E. A. C. Costantini, S. Pellegrini, P. Bucelli, R. Barbetti, S. Campagnolo, P. Storchi, S. Magini, and R. Perria, 2010. Mapping suitability for Sangiovese wine by means of δ13C and geophysical sensors in soils with moderate salinity. European Journal of Agronomy, 33:208-217.

C. Durante, L. Bertacchini, L. Bontempo, F. Camin, D. Manzini, P. Lambertini, A. Marchetti, and M. Paolini, 2016. From soil to grape to wine: Variation of light and heavy elements isotope ratios. Food Chemistry, 210:648-659.

C. Durante, C. Baschieri, L. Bertacchini, M. Cocchi, S. Sighinolfi, M. Silvestri, and A. Marchetti, 2013. Geographical traceability based on 87Sr/86Sr indicator: A first approach for PDO Lambrusco wines from Modena. Food Chemistry, 141:2779-2787.

C. Durante, C. Baschieri, L. Bertacchini, D. Bertelli, M. Cochi, A. Marchetti, D. Manzini, G. Papotti, and S. Sighinolfi, 2015. An analytical approach to Sr isotope ratio determination in Lambrusco wines for geographical traceability purposes. Food Chemistry, 173:557-563.

S. V. Dutra, L. Adami, A. R. Marcon, G. J. Carnieli, C. A. Roani, F. R. Spinelli, S. Leonardelli, and R. Vanderlinde, 2013. Characterization of wines according the geographical origin by analysis of isotopes and minerals and the influence of harvest on the isotope values. Food Chemistry, 141:2148-2153.

S. Marchionni, A. Buccianti, A. Bollati, E. Braschi, F. Cifelli, P. Molin, M. Parotto, M. Mattei, S. Tommasini, and S. Conticelli, 2016. Conservation of 87Sr/86Sr isotopic ratios during the winemaking processes of 'Red' wines to validate their use as geographic tracer. Food Chemistry, 190:777-785.

R. Petrini, L. Sansone, F. F. Slejko, A. Buccianti, P. Marcuzzo and D. Tomasi, 2015. The 87Sr/86Sr isotopic systematics applied to Glera vineyards: A tracer for the geographical origin of the Prosecco. Food Chemistry, 170:138-144.

L. G. Santesteban, C. Miranda, I. Barbarin, and J. B. Roya, 2015. Application of the measurement of the natural abundance of stable isotopes in viticulture: a review. Australian Journal of Grape and Wine Research, 21:157-167.

R. Stevenson, S. Desrochers, and J.-F. Helei, 2015. Stable and radiogenic isotopes as indicators of agri-food provenance: Insights from artisanal chees from Quebec, Canada. International Diary Journal, 49:37-45.

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I. Tescione, S. Marchionni, M. Mattei, F. Tassi, C. Romano, and S. Conticelli, 2015. A Comparative 87Sr/86Sr study in Red and White wines to validate its use as geochemical tracer for geographical origin of wine. Procedia Earth and Planetary Science, 13:169-172.

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Geochemical Provenance - Remote Sensing
C. Delenne, S. Durrieu, G. Rabatel, and M. Deshayes, 2010. From pixel to vine parcel: A complete methodology for vineyard delineation and characterization using remote-sensing data. Computers and Electronics in Agriculture, 70:78-83.

M. S. Garcia-Falcon, C. Perez-Lamela, E. Martinez-Carballo, and J. Simal-Gandara, 2007. Determination of phenolic compounds in wines: Influence of bottle storage of young red wines on their evolution. Food Chemistry, 105:248-259.

A. Marquez, M P. Serratosa and J. Merida, 2014. Influence of bottle storage time on colour, phenolic composition and sensory properties of sweet red wines. Food Chemistry, 146:507-514.

Wine Taste/Flavor
J. Baker and R.J. Clarke, 2012. Wine Flavour Chemistry. Second Edition, John Wiley and Sons, 418 pp.

J. Goode, 2016. I Taste Red. University of California Press, 224 pp.

S. Garcia-Munoz, G. Munoz-Organero, E. Fernandez-Fernandez and F. Cabello, 2014. Sensory characterization and factors influencing quality of wines made from 18 minor varieties (Vitis vinifera L.). Food Quality and Preference, 32:241-252.

M. Gonzalez-Alvarez, R. Noguerol-Pato, C. Gonzalez-Barreiro, B. Cancho-Grande, and J. Simal-Gandara, 2014. Sensory description of wines obtained by the winemaking procedures or raising, botrytisation and fortification. Food Chemistry, 145:1021-1030.

M. R. Gonzalez-Centeno, K. Chira, and P.-L. Teissedre, 2016. Ellagitannin content, volatile composition and sensory profile of wines from different countries matured in oak barrels subjected to different toasting methods. Food Chemistry, 210:500-511.

T. E. Johnson, A. Hasted, R. Ristic, S. E. P. Bastian, 2013. Multidimensional scaling (MDS), cluster and descriptive analyses provide preliminary insights into Australian Shiraz wine regional characteristics. Food Quality and Preference, 29:174-185.

E. S. King, M. Stoumen, F. Busceman, A. K. Hjelmeland, S. E. Ebeler, H. Heymann and R. B. Boulton, 2014. Regional sensory and chemical characteristics of Malbec wines from Mendoza and California. Food Chemistry, 143:256-267.

G. J. Retallack and S. F. Burns, 2016. The effects of soil on the taste of wine. GSA Today, 26(5):4-9.

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J. A. Lee, 2014. "Why wine smells the way it does". Stanford Wine Society (

M. Puckette. "Identifying Fruit Aromas in Wine". Wine Folly (

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Wine-Food Pairing
S. E. P. Bastian, C. Collins and T. E. Johnson, 2010. Understanding consumer preferences for Shiraz wine and Cheddar cheese pairings. Food Quality and Preference, 21:668-678.

Wine and Global Warming/Climate Change
R. Ruitenberg, 2015. "The Way That France Makes Wine Is About to Change Forever." Bloomberg, October 15, 2015.

J. Goode, 2014. The Science of Wine: From Vine to Glass. Second Edition, University of California Press, 216 pp.

M. Sandler and R. Pinder (Editors), 2003. Wine: A Scientific Exploration. Taylor and Francis, 320 pp.

L. K. Wolf, 2014. A Taste of Wine Science. Chemical and Engineering News, 92(38):28-30.

February 27th, 2017