, Volume 281, Issue 1-2, pp 55-69

Characterization of Viticultural Terroirs using a Simple Field Model Based on Soil Depth – II. Validation of the Grape Yield and Berry Quality in the Anjou Vineyard (France)

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Abstract

Soil and climate are major constituents of the French notion of Terroir. This concept implies that there is a strong relationship between the composition of the grape, the characteristics of the wine and the territory of production. To study this link, a new method of characterization of the Terroir, including geological and pedological factors, was investigated. It uses a field model based on depth and clay content of soil, together with the degree of weathering of the parent rock. Consequently, for every type of parent rock belonging to a given geologic stage, there are a series of soils that show different stages of pedological evolution. According to the model, three kinds of soils are distinguished with regards to the weathering intensity of the parent rock, that are named weakly weathered rock (WWR), moderately weathered rock (MWR) and strongly weathered rock (SWR). By hypothesis, each soil type is considered as a homogeneous unit for vine production from the viewpoint of ecophysiological factors. Each terroir unit defined by this method is called a Basic Terroir Unit (BTU). To validate this hypothesis, experimental plots planted with Chenin and Cabernet Franc vines were studied over three consecutive seasons (2000–2002), in the Anjou vineyard (Loire Valley – France). The major BTUs developed on the two most important geological systems of Anjou (Brioverian and Ordovician–Devonian), were studied. Results showed that the berries of vines cultivated in WWR were significantly smaller, richer in sugars and anthocyanins and had a Total Phenolic Index higher than those of the vines cultivated in SWR. They also had a lower titratable acidity. Cabernet Franc vines cultivated in MWR had berries with sugar and anthocyanin contents but also total phenolics very close to those of WWR. With Chenin vines there was a good relationship between the global pool of free aromas of berries and the BTU type. The study showed significant relationships between the quality of grapes and the measured values of several ecophysiological variables such as the water supply regime or the timing of budburst.