by Jess Ruciack
We love having visitors in our Cellar Door from around the state, the country and the world. Each visitor has a different knowledge of wine, winemaking and viticulture. As such, we get some great questions from our visitors that allow us to provide insight into the influence that the environment and the vineyard can have on the finished product – our wines!
We first looked at this topic back in July 2016 as part of our Cellar Door FAQs series and I figured it’s time to have another look!
Why do you have vases filled with soil on the shelves?
A question often raised in Cellar Door as we have vases filled with soil on display behind the bar. Good question – the answer is, because soil is super important to what we do!
The Ashmead family own three vineyard sites across the Barossa. The sites, at Greenock and Nuriootpa (Barossa Valley) and Craneford (Eden Valley) each have greatly varying soils. In Cellar Door we can talk about the differences and also have the soil samples to show the distinct nature of each vineyard site very clearly.
So what difference does soil make?
Soil contributes to what many know as ‘terroir’. Terroir is French and is difficult to translate but mostly relates to soils, topography and climate, the three which we will cover today. A great description of terroir is available to read on Halliday’s Wine Companion website, where I like this descriptive quote:
Bruno Prats, the former proprietor of Chateau Cos d’Estournel in the Medoc, explained it thus: “The very French notion of terroir looks at all the natural conditions which influence the biology of the vinestock and thus the composition of the grape itself. The terroir is the coming together of the climate, the soil, and the landscape. It is the combination of an infinite number of factors: temperatures by night and by day, rainfall distribution, hours of sunlight, slope and drainage, to name but a few. All these factors react with each other to form, in each part of the vineyard, what French wine growers call a terroir.”https://www.winecompanion.com.au/resources/australian-wine-industry/terroir
Soil is therefore, just one part of the puzzle
At the launch of our Greenock wines in 2013, we invited soil expert and co-author of The Soils of Southern South Australia David Maschmedt to talk about the soils of our Greenock vineyard. There is a lot of science! Here’s a pit we dug to have a look at the soil profile.
We could talk for hours about soils and the role they play in wine, so here’s some light reading for you – the Barossa Grape & Wine Association has been working on a project for a number of years, looking to define the soils of the Barossa and what influence they may have over the aromas and flavours of the grapes grown throughout our region.
This is Barossa Grounds and is certainly an interesting read. Elderton had a strong involvement with Barossa Grounds – Jules Ashmead, our Head of Production, and Richard Langford, our former winemaker, were great contributors to this project. More than 80 grape growing sites have been examined and the project continues to evolve.
Nuriootpa, our home ground and Cellar Door base, is in ‘Central Grounds’ with deep, fertile alluvial soil as the vineyard is on the banks of the North Para River. Wines from this area tend to be full bodied and are seen as the classic Barossa style – structured, complex and concentrated.
The other parts to the puzzle
The topography and climate are other parts to the puzzle. This plays a large role in the difference between wines from the Barossa Valley and the Eden Valley, which sits at a higher altitude. The lower lying Barossa Valley is generally warmer and drier, resulting in wines that are richer and deeper in flavour. The Eden Valley, at 400+ metres above sea level, is generally cooler and wetter and the soils have a tendency to be skeletal and minerally. The rolling hills also play a roll, with significant differences in vineyard aspect. As a result, wines from the Eden Valley tend to have greater acidity and are more elegant.
Barossa Shiraz Masterclass
If you’re interested in learning more, our Barossa Shiraz Masterclass may be up your alley. We hold this in our Cellar Door, where we travel (figuratively speaking) around the Barossa, tasting three wines from our Estate owned vineyards, and explore the diversity of Shiraz and the distinctive characteristics each vineyard brings to the wine.
If you have a topic that you would like us to cover in future blogs, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.