Correlating Soil Nutrients to Wine Flavors and Quality Perception and to Human Health.
Essential health and resistance to disease derives from nutrients and micro-nutrients in the soil.  All major experts on this subject agree that most of the diseases in this country, like diabetes which is now at epidemic proportions, and obesity (a mineral-starved condition) find their root cause in the mineral depleted soils that dominate our farmlands.
Almost all of the wine made in this country derives flavor structure from oak barrels or chips and winemaking manipulation and uncontrolled use of chemicals, many of which are dangerously toxic. These questions which have also much to do with this overarching concept of "terroir" and a "sense of place" were in part the questions that prompted the most significant long-term research efforts ever undertaken regarding the impact of soil types, nutrients, and properties in regards to wine quality and flavor perceptions, and ultimately the relationship of wine to human health.  

The Most Important Vineyard Research Ever Undertaken.

All of the major soil constituents (such as limestone, calcium montmorillonite, volcanic intrusion, etc.) had to be present in the soils where the studies took would take place. This unique combination of soils coupled with ideal microclimates and a history of no added fertilization to the soils made the subject vineyard a one-of-a-kind laboratory.  For the first time the quality perception of wine which has always been illusive and subject to varying personal interpretations was to be scientifically investigated with a constancy of parameters and vineyard and winemaking controls that heretofore were not available.
This seminal study which correlated soil nutrients to flavors would not only confirm but analyze the process of minerals to taste perception. The Project Title: Assessing the Relationship of Wine Quality to Soil Type: A joint project between Cal Poly Earth and Soil Sciences & Food Chemistry, Food Science, Nutrition, & Statistical Departments, John Deere Global Ag. Services, State of California, Earth Information Technologies Inc., Motorola, and the vineyards of Carmody McKnight in Paso Robles, California.
The project was directed by Thomas J. Rice, Ph.D., C.P.S.S., Professor of Earth & Soil Sciences, California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly), Earth and Soil Sciences Department; Joseph Montecalvo, Ph.D., Professor of Food Chemistry, Food Science and Nutrition Department Cal Poly, and the Department of Statistical Research, Cal Poly.  
The studies were a joint effort between the State of California, the above departments of Cal Poly, John Deere Global Ag. Services (with Mark Stelford, Ph.D.), Earth Information Technologies Inc. (EarthIT; Dan Rooney, EarthIT President) and Motorola, providing atmospheric and soil monitoring stations. Further studies, especially in regard to calcium montmorillonite, were advanced by Professor Deborah Soukup, Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada. Dr. Ron Taskey. Professor of Earth & Soil Sciences, California Polytechnic State University conducted several soil to wine projects. Dr. John Lawley, soil scientist from Utah State University directed specific analysis involving calcareous soils and the impact on grape growing and wine quality. Teams of prominent geologists, soil scientists, viticulturalists from universities around the world with distinguished geology and earth science departments took advantage of this remarkable and unprecedented decades-long project to join in on-site with allied reviews, research, and investigations.
Professor Thomas J. Rice prepared the following project synopsis ~ project title: "Assessing Wine Quality Relationships to Soil Types"
1. Produce detailed soil map for Blocks 3-4-5 of Carmody McKnight vineyards.  (Use existing EarthIT information from June 2003 to revise previous soils maps conducted by the Cal Poly and the USDA).
2. Obtain soil physical and geochemical properties (to four feet) for the major soils in these blocks.  Describe each soil according to USDA standards, sample each morphologic soil horizon, and obtain geochemical data for all morphologic soil horizons.
3. Based on the soils maps and soils data, partition zones within the wine grape varieties (Cabernet Franc-Bl. 3, Merlot-Bl. 4, Cabernet Sauvignon-Bl. 5).  A wine grape plot sampling will be designed to sample grapes from the same variety on significantly different soils, all other factors being equal.
4. Assess the wine grape quality parameters (inorganic and organic components).
5. Statistically compare the "inorganic" wine grape parameters with the inorganic soil geochemical properties.  Statistically compare the "organic" wine grape parameters among the different soil types.  Dr. Montecalvo will conduct the wine property analyses to begin to determine the differences between the wines harvested on varying soil types, all other factors being equal (grape variety, climate, vineyard management, etc.). A sampling regime will be conducted to capture changes/differences in the chemistry/flavor profiles. The group will measure the most important "grape must" and "wine" organic and inorganic properties in order to distinguish differences among similar genetic wine grape varieties grown on differing soil types.

New "Wonder Soil" 

In the latest university studies which Cal Poly State University, SLO, in conjunction with other institutions including John Deere & Co. and the SoilTopo, LLC, led to the discovery of a new “wonder soil.” Over 25,000 USDA soil series reviews were conducted and not one single match was found anywhere in the world. The soil is yet to be named, but it is indeed wondrous with attributes unparalleled for the highest quality wine grape growing and certainly even more exacting research relating to nutrients and micro-nutrients upon wine perception and by extension the nutrient impact on the human body.

This “wonder soil” classifies into the “smectite” mineralogy class by the USDA soil taxonomy. The predominate clay particles are calcium montmorillonite. It is rare to find any similar soil, which is this shallow in relation to the weathered igneous (volcanic) bedrock. This revelation occurred during the most recent Cal Poly, SLO soil mapping project, conducted on Carmody McKnight Vineyards and led by Thomas J. Rice, Ph.D., C.P.S.S. It ultimately required comparing this unique soil with over 25,000 USDA soil series worldwide and no comparable soil was found!

This “wonder soil” for wine grapes possesses an extraordinary balance of macronutrient (Ca, Mg, P, S, N and K) and micronutrient (Fe, Mn, Cu, etc.) contents. Significantly, the soil is notable for its extremely high cation exchange capacity (CEC), virtually a sponge for nutrients and water. The very high CEC results from the favorably elevated organic matter and smectite levels in this soil. The CEC complex in the soil retains a wide array of cationic nutrients (Ca, Mg, K, etc.), which support healthy, nutrient-rich grapes producing the most flavorfully profound and complex wines, naturally derived.
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