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Wednesday, 30 March 2022 20:19

Five Fabled Vineyard Soils with Alex Maltman

Of all the vineyard soils of the world, a dozen or so have acquired a designation of their own. Examples are New Zealand’s Gimblett Gravels (with their astonishing rise to fame), the albarizas of Spain’s sherry district (made of tiny but crucial “architectural marvels”), California’s enigmatic Rutherford Dust, the cherished Kimmeridgian of Chablis, and the spectacular terra rossa of Australia’s Coonawarra. The names probably mean little to most people but to wine enthusiasts they are features to celebrate, prompting images of exceptional places and wines of distinction. In this webinar, Alex Maltman will explore the stories and the science behind these five examples of elite vineyard soils, with names that are legendary in the world of wine.

PRESENTER: ALEX MALTMAN

Alex is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K. He has a decorated career in university teaching and research together with a long-standing interest in wine: for nearly fifty years Alex has grown vines and made wine at his home in Wales.

Alex’s scientific curiosity has always questioned things about wine including, inevitably, the fashionable but poorly understood relationship between wine and vineyard geology. This has led to publications in both the popular press and academic journals, and to various international lectures. Alex has contributed to a number of wine books, such as the Oxford Companion to Wine and the World Atlas of Wine, and is author of the acclaimed “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (Oxford University Press 2018).

 

 

 

Published in Miscellaneous
Thursday, 04 March 2021 03:17

Tasting Vineyard Soil in Wine with Alex Maltman

Why do we think that the vineyard soil is so important for the taste of wine?

The rocks and soils in the vineyard certainly affect how vines grow but these days they pervade writings on wine flavor; some commentators believe they are the overriding contributor to taste. There are restaurant wine lists organized not by grape variety, region or style but by geology: granite wines, limestone wine, alluvial wines and so on. Some say the rocks can literally be tasted in the wine. Clearly people love these ideas, not least because they chime with today’s yearning for our food and drink having a sense of place and being linked with the “good earth”.

But in none of this is there any indication of how these things actually happen, and scientific understanding of how vines grow makes it very difficult to see how they would come about. In this webinar I will explain some of the scientific difficulties and explore two reasons why the beliefs might be so strong. One is historical: the powerful and ongoing legacy of centuries of teaching that wine was literally made from the soil. The other is the way we use certain geological words to communicate our taste perceptions: slaty, mineral, flinty and the like. The words conjure a link between wine and the soil but, just like most other tasting terms, in reality they have to be metaphors.

PRESENTER: ALEX MALTMAN

Alex has a long and decorated career in university teaching and research in geology, and for over forty years has grown vines and made wine at his home in Wales. Inevitably, all this led Alex to the much lauded but poorly understood relationship between wine and vineyard geology. He has talked about aspects of this around the world and published both in academic journals and popular magazines such as The World of Fine Wine and Decanter. Alex has advised on the geological content of a number of wine books, including the Oxford Companion to Wine and the World Atlas of Wine. He is the author of the acclaimed book: “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology”, Oxford, 2018.

Published in Wine Tasting
Friday, 27 November 2020 05:41

Meeting of the Minds - Taste and Terroir

Can you taste ‘minerality’? What do we mean by ‘terroir’? Where do aroma and flavour come from? Is too much attention paid to the role of the soil in discussions of the aromas and flavours of great wines? How rare are truly great winegrowing sites? These are some of the questions we aim to discuss in the upcoming Meeting of the Minds on November 25th.

Wine Scholar Guild Academic Advisor Andrew Jefford, speaking from France, will be bringing together a panel of key thinkers, educators, writers and experts in four countries to talk through these and other issues. Wales-based Professor Alex Maltman has had a forty-year teaching career, and now divides his time between writing about the relationship between geology and wine production as well as the influence of geology on other beverages and tending his own vineyard. California-based Professor Hildegarde Heymann teaches sensory science within the viticulture and oenology department of UC Davis, one of the world’s leading wine-educational institutions. Former plant scientist and science editor Dr Jamie Goode, speaking from the UK, writes, blogs and tweets about wine and wine science via his own Wine Anorak website as well as for The World of Fine Wine and other publications. Finally, speaking from Turckhiem in Alsace, comes Olivier Humbrecht MW, one of the world’s leading exponents and practitioners of site-sensitive winemaking and a widely acclaimed viticulturalist and winemaker.

This Meeting of the Minds aims to explore one of the most misunderstood yet also the most important topics in today’s wine world.

PRESENTER: ANDREW JEFFORD

Andrew, Academic Advisor to the Wine Scholar Guild, has been writing about wine since 1988, notably for The Evening Standard and The Financial Times among other UK newspapers.  He has columns in every edition of Decanter magazine and World of Fine Wine magazine, and is co-chair of Decanter World Wine Awards and vice-chair of Decanter Asia Wine Awards.  His books include The New France, Whisky Island and Andrew Jefford’s Wine Course.


MEET THE PANEL:

Emeritus Professor Alex Maltman, Aberystwyth University, geologist, teacher, writer

Professor Hildegarde Heymann, UC Davis, sensory scientist, teacher

Dr Jamie Goode, wine writer, wine judge

Olivier Humbrecht MW, wine grower, winemaker

Published in Wine Tasting

Clay is very familiar: in garden soils, for modelling toys, baked as bricks and tiles, pots and plates. It’s very widely used commercially: in landfill linings, drilling muds, animal housing, insulation, explosives, medicines, cosmetics, etc. etc. And yet it’s a rather mysterious substance. What is it exactly? What is it made of? Why does it behave in such unique ways?

In this webinar I will explain the basics of clay and clay soils. In particular I will show how two fundamental properties of the minuscule flakes that constitute clay underpin its multifarious significance. In the wine world this includes critical influences on the nutrient status and the drainage properties of vineyard soils, and also its use for such things as a rooting medium for vine cuttings, a sunscreen on vine foliage, and a wine clarifying agent. Clay foundations can affect the very stability of winery buildings. Even fermentation vessels, in recent years so fashionably made of oak or stainless steel, are for some producers now shifting back to the material used 8,000 years ago – clay.

It’s a bewildering array of applications, but an understanding of the basics of what clay is goes a very long way to explaining just why it’s such a special material and so important in the world of wine.

Alex Maltman is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K. Besides a long and decorated career in academic teaching and research, which has involved some of the Earth’s high mountains, drilling below the floors of the deepest parts of the oceans, and a lot of geological matters in between, for over forty years he has grown vines and made wine at his home in Wales.

His scientific curiosity always questioned things about wine, and particularly its much-mentioned relationship with vineyard geology. This led to research on vineyard soils on four continents and eventually to presentations at international conferences, workshops and masterclasses, together with publications both in the popular press and academic journals. Alex was responsible for the geological entries in the Oxford Companion to Wine and has advised on the geological content of a number of wine books, including the World Atlas of Wine. He is author of the widely acclaimed volume: “Vineyards, Rocks, and Soils: A Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology”.

Presenter: Professor Alex Maltman

Alex Maltman is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K., with a long and decorated career in university teaching and research.

In addition, for over forty years Alex has grown vines and made wine, his scientific curiosity prompting questions about why things were done in certain ways and, inevitably, to the much- mentioned relationship between wine and vineyard geology.

This has led to numerous publications, in both the popular press and academic journals, and to international lectures.

Alex has advised on the geological content of a number of wine books, including the Oxford Companion to Wine and the forthcoming 8th edition of the World Atlas of Wine.

He is the author of the much acclaimed “Vineyards, Rocks and Soils, a Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (Oxford, 2018).

 

Published in Miscellaneous

In this webinar I will address some of the intriguing questions you submitted. Varied they were, but many had a common thread: what is it about a particular soil that is so important for certain wines? I will look at some general ideas about such claims, and then consider some specific examples, such as slate in the Moselle and Priorat, granite and diorite in Beaujolais.

What exactly is the difference between granite and gneiss, and what does it mean for wines, say in South Africa’s Cape region, and in France’s Muscadet? And what about limestone? How does it lead to wines with finesse and edginess; how can its alkaline soils yield wines with marked acidity? (Ah, but do they?) How do chalk and marl fit in, and what are they exactly? Is it true that most of the world’s limestone is around the Mediterranean?

In addressing such questions in the webinar I hope to provide plenty of food for thought, and to shed some light on the wondrous world of wine and soil.

Presenter: Professor Alex Maltman

Alex Maltman is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K., with a long and decorated career in university teaching and research.

In addition, for over forty years Alex has grown vines and made wine, his scientific curiosity prompting questions about why things were done in certain ways and, inevitably, to the much- mentioned relationship between wine and vineyard geology.

This has led to numerous publications, in both the popular press and academic journals, and to international lectures.

Alex has advised on the geological content of a number of wine books, including the Oxford Companion to Wine and the forthcoming 8th edition of the World Atlas of Wine.

He is the author of the much acclaimed “Vineyards, Rocks and Soils, a Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (Oxford, 2018).

 

Published in Miscellaneous
Wednesday, 14 November 2018 13:49

Minerality in Wine with Alex Maltman

Minerality is now the single most widely used wine descriptor, yet its meaning remains elusive. Are we talking about a smell, a mouthfeel, a taste, or what? Does it depend on the grape varietal or wine style? It’s all very debatable, and in this webinar I will summarise studies illustrating how opinions vary.

There are various suggestions on what may be prompting minerality but many commentators invoke a direct connection with the minerals in the vineyard ground. It’s a seductive idea - and very useful in marketing – but I will explain how any such link has to be highly indirect and complex.

Presenter: Professor Alex Maltman

Alex Maltman is Emeritus Professor of Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, U.K., with a long and decorated career in university teaching and research.

In addition, for over forty years Alex has grown vines and made wine, his scientific curiosity prompting questions about why things were done in certain ways and, inevitably, to the much- mentioned relationship between wine and vineyard geology.

This has led to numerous publications, in both the popular press and academic journals, and to international lectures.

Alex has advised on the geological content of a number of wine books, including the Oxford Companion to Wine and the forthcoming 8th edition of the World Atlas of Wine.

He is the author of the much acclaimed “Vineyards, Rocks and Soils, a Wine Lover’s Guide to Geology” (Oxford, 2018).

Published in Wine Tasting

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