Alsace Soil Types

  1. Describe Granite/Gneiss
    • Igneous rock
    • Gneiss is a sandier form of granite
    • Crystalline, quartz-rich
    • Disintegrates to form sand and pebbly screes
    • Does not retain water well
    • Ideal for late-ripening Riesling
    • Wines are fresh, floral, delicate, expressive
  2. Describe Schist
    • Foliated (easily split) metamorphic rock derived from clays and mud
    • Metamorphic rock (Shale to Slate to Schist)
    • Alsace's oldest soil type
    • Ville Schist: 500 mya, green-gray, clayey ("argillaceous")
    • Steige Schist: 430 mya, black, hard, rich in iron, magnesium, sodium
    • Crafts Riesling wines that age well
  3. Describe Graywacke
    • Rare in Alsace (Rangen de Thann)
    • Gray-black volcanic-sedimentary rock comprised of lava, ash, quartz, granite, and sand
    • Formed 300 mya; rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sulphates
    • Slow to erode, heats quickly and retains heat
    • Crafts Riesling and Pinot Gris wines that are structured, fruity, expressive, and age well
  4. Describe Sandstone
    • Nutritionally poor sedimentary rock that does not retain water
    • Common at the end of Paleozoic era and beginning of Mesozoic era
    • Permian Sandstone: contains feldspar and volanic elements
    • Buntsandstein (aka Vosges Sandstone): rich in iron oxide; "bunt" means colorful in German
    • Crafts Riesling and Pinot Gris wines that are delicate, fruity, and age well
  5. Describe Limestone
    • Sedimentary marine deposits, stony and does not retain much water
    • Muschelkalk: gray, marl fingers, formed 250-200 mya
    • Dogger: white, oolitic limestone, formed 199-145 mya
    • Erodes quickly, releasing calcium and magnesium
    • Gewurtztraminer develops aromas of rose and Pinot Noir develops richness
    • Wines are balanced and delicate, with great aging potential
  6. Define Marl
    Amalgamation of calcium carbonate (CaCO3, aka "lime") and clay
  7. Describe Marly-Limy (Marly Limestone) soils
    • One of the most common and best terroirs in Alsace (22 of 51 Grand Crus)
    • yellow-white oolitic limestone conglomerate formed 30-45 mya
    • Washed down from the foothills, rounded by streams, cemented together by marls
    • Soils are rich in calcium and magnesium and retain water well
    • Suited for Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Sylvaner
    • Wines are structured, rich, and spicy
  8. Describe Marly-Sandstone soils
    • Mineral wealth varies with little humus (decomposed organic matter)
    • Erodes quickly but retains water well
    • Crafts Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines with good acidity, fruity aromas, and complexity
  9. Describe Sandy-Marly-Limy (Calcareous-Marl-Sandstone) soils
    • Layers of limestone, standstone, and marls formed during the Mesozoic era (251-65 mya)
    • Soils are deep with good water retention
    • Tremendous mineral wealth (calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese)
    • Riesling and Gewurztraminer wines develop pronounced minerality
  10. Describe Calcareous-Sandstone (Limy Sandstone) soils
    • Rare in Alsace
    • Quartz sand cemented by calcium or magnesium carbonates ([CO3]2-); often with white mica flakes
    • Slow to erode, heats quickly and retains heat, does not retain water well
    • Poor soils with little organic or mineral content
    • Wines develop a floral aroma with a touch of exotic fruit
  11. Describe Clayey-Marly (Marly Clay) soils
    • Clay with small pockets of limestone, dolomite, or gypsum
    • Heavy soils have tremendous minteral wealth and retain water well; prone to landslides
    • Suitable for Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Sylvaner
    • Wines mature slowly but develop good structure, minerality, and complexity
  12. Define scree
    Broken rock fragments that collect at the base of cliffs, mountains, or steep slope
  13. Define talus slope
    • A slope formed by an accumulation of rock debris
    • Image Upload 1
  14. Describe Lowland Talus Slope and Scree soils
    • Colluvial deposits (slope wash) of sand, silt, clay, and pebbles; usually fine-grained and siliceous (quartz is a type of silica)-based
    • Mineral wealth and particle size varies greatly
    • Common lowland soil in Alsace formed during the last 2.5 million years (young)
    • Riesling, Sylvaner, and Pinots do well here
  15. Describe Valley Floor/Alluvial soils
    • Sand, silt, clay, gravel and pebbles dropped by streams, naturally sorted by size (heaviest first, lightest last) and arranged in the direction of water flow
    • Very rich in organic material with a water reserve that helps vines survive drought
    • Wines are very fruity and light-bodied, meant to be drunk young
    • Pinot Blanc and Auxerrois used for cr√©mant are planted here
  16. Describe Loess and Loam soils
    • Fine, pale yellow silt, sand, and calcareous particles with little clay
    • Loess are wind deposits (aeolian) that originated during the last glacial period; as loess weathers, it decalcifies and transforms into a brown loam
    • Excellent cropland as the soil is loose and fertile with good water retention
    • Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Pinot Blanc grown here are meant to be drunk young
  17. What adjective and noun describe soil deposited by wind?
    Aeolian/Loess: accumulation of wind-blown silt
  18. What adjective and noun describe soil deposited by gravity?
    Colluvial/Colluvium: loose deposit of rock debris accumulated through the action of gravity
  19. What adjective and noun describe soil deposited by water?
    Alluvial/Alluvium: fine-grained fertile soil consisting of mud, silt, sand and gravel deposited by flowing water
  20. Define Loam
    A rich, friable (brittle) soil containing a relatively equal mixture of sand and silt and a somewhat smaller proportion of clay.
  21. Define Clastic
    Denoting rocks composed of broken pieces of older rocks
  22. Define Calcareous
    • Composed of or characteristic of calcium carbonate (CaCO3), calcium, or limestone; chalky
    • Chalk: limestone derived chiefly from fossil seashells
  23. Define Argilleceous
    Denoting rocks containing fine-grained sediment such as clay
  24. Define Arenaceous
    Containing (or living in) sand
  25. Name the soils found on the bottom slopes of the Vosges Peaks
    • Granite/Gneiss
    • Schist
    • Graywacke
    • Sandstone
  26. Name the soils found on the Sub-Vosgian Foothills
    • Limestone
    • Calcareous Sandstone
    • Marly Sandstone
    • Marly Limestone
    • Marly Clay
    • Marly Calcareous Sandstone
  27. Name the soils found on the Rhine Plain
    • Alluvial
    • Aeolian: Loess/Loam
    • Colluvial: Lowland Talus Slope and Scree
  28. Which soils are common in Alsace?
    • Marly Limestone
    • Colluvial (Lowland Talus Slope and Scree)
  29. Which soils are rare in Alsace?
    Graywacke and Sandstone
  30. Which soil types are planted to each of the 7 grape varieties grown in Alsace?
    • Riesling (8): G, T, V, S, MS, LMS, LO, CO
    • Pinot Gris (6): V, S, ML, MC, LO, CO
    • Gewurztraminer (5): L, ML, MC, MS, LMS
    • Pinot Blanc (5): ML, MC, A, LO, CO
    • Sylvaner (3): ML, MC, CO
    • Pinot Noir (2): L, CO
    • Auxerrois (1): A

    Note: T=Schist, V=Graywacke, LO=Loess/Loam, CO=Lowland Talus Slope and Scree
  31. Define Marl
    • A mixture of limestone (calcium carbonate, CaCO3) and clay (e.g., 35-65% each)
    • Image Upload 2
  32. Define Loam
    • A mixture of sand, silt, and clay (e.g., 40%, 40%, 20%)
    • Image Upload 3
  33. What is the particle size of sand, silt, and clay
    • Sand: 0.063-4.75 mm
    • Silt: 0.002-0.063 mm
    • Clay: < 0.002 mm
  34. Name the soils of famous Grand Crus in Haut-Rhine
    • Chatenois to Colmar (North Haut-Rhine):
    • Praelatenberg: Granite/Gneiss
    • Osterberg: Marl (marly limestone)
    • Sonnenglantz: Marly limestone
    • Sporen: Marly clay
    • Furstentum: Limestone
    • Mambourg: Marly limestone
    • Kaefferkopf: Granite, sandstone, limestone
    • Brand: Granite
    • Hengst: Marly¬†calcareous sandstone

    • Wettolsheim to Orschwihr (Central Haut-Rhine):
    • Steingrubler: Marly calcareous sandstone
    • Pfersigberg: Sandstone, limestone
    • Goldert: Marly limestone
    • Zinnkoepfle: Sandstone, limestone

    • Gruebeiller to Than (South Haut-Rhine):
    • Kessler: Sandy clay (marly clay, sandstone)
Card Set
Alsace Soil Types
Wine Scholar Guild Alsace Master Level Program