Every year the Lost Oak Team heads out to the High Plains to check in on our grape growers. This year was more educational than usual because we also had the opportunity to stop in Plains Texas for Newsom Grape Day, a free event held every year by Neal and Janice Newsom of Newsome Vineyards. Growers, winemakers, and anyone interested in Texas wine gather to hear experts address a topic that affects grapes and wine. This year’s topic was Soil! Dirt may not sound all that exciting, but it was truly fascinating how this plant necessity can have a BIG impact on the finished product. Most wine enthusiasts know that soil can add to the terroir characteristic of wine. It is one of the big reasons that a Merlot from Australia does not taste the same as a Merlot from California. But soil is more important to winemaking than just its terroir contributions. It is directly responsible for much of the vine’s ability to grow and sustain itself.
As a grower or potential grower, soil can be your best friend or worst enemy. We spent the day looking at presentations on soil mapping, soil compositions, soil striations, chemical compositions of soil, and topographical maps. We even went outside and looked in a freshly dug soil pit. So, why is dirt so important? Why spend a whole day discussing it and looking at it?
Grapevines are hardy and will grow just about anywhere, but just because grapes will grow just about anywhere does not mean that you will get the best grapes out of just any old piece of land. Topsoil that is too thin means the roots could hit bedrock and become stunted. Soil that does not drain well could mean too much water for the vines. Soil with too much drainage means a grower may have to use more water than expected. Nutrient-deficient soil could mean that the vines struggle to produce fruit. Soil with uneven nutrients may result in a vineyard that does not produce an even crop yield. Soil with certain chemical compounds can result in grapes with higher or lower than expected pH.
Following the topography and soil maps can also help a potential grower map out the design of their vineyard more efficiently. This soil and topographic information can identify how to break up a vineyard into blocks for optimal production and ease of use of the land. Topographical maps can even help identify areas that may be more affected by freezes.
One thing is for sure: grape growing is not for the impulsive! It takes immense amounts of planning, managing, and maintenance.
Thank you to everyone at Newsom Grape Day for having us and cheers to all our growers. Their hard work makes it possible for us to provide you with excellent wine!