What is Your Wine Drinking Personality? 11 Types of Wine Drinkers

What is Your Wine Drinking Personality? 11 Types of Wine Drinkers

When it comes to wine, opinions are wide-ranging. Wine preferences are all over the place, from cheap to expensive, red or white, New World or Old World. Some people only drink very specific wines from certain places. You can choose wine based on the winemaker’s story, or what the label looks like. You might choose a wine based on your mood or what’s for dinner. Maybe you just like the shape of the bottle or you remember a favorite wine from a trip.

With so much variety and complexity in the wine world, it can be hard to choose. What do your wine preferences say about you? We reached out to several experts for their wisdom and experience to develop eleven types of wine drinkers. Which one fits your personality?

red white wine divide

The Red/White Wine Divide

While there have been many polls over the years, Coravin, the wine-device company, ran a survey about a year ago, on National Wine Day. About 2,000 wine drinkers, who drank an average of four glasses of wine per week, participated. The results listed the traits of red-wine drinkers versus white-wine drinkers.

Below, the Coravin chart contrasts characteristics of red and white wine drinkers. Those preferring red wine were somewhat more knowledgeable and willing to spend a bit more. Coravin learned that while most wine drinkers prefer to drink at home, when going out they tend to drink whatever everyone else is drinking.

red and white wine drinkers


While intriguing, there are, no doubt, a gazillion exceptions to the above.

Everyone Has an Opinion on Wine

If you go online and type in “What does your wine preference say about you?” you’ll get a variety of different articles and opinions, some more serious than others.

Below, we went beyond the general Buzzfeed quiz - we won’t tell you what your wine personality is after you answer five off-topic questions. Instead, read on and decide for yourself.

Here is our take on what type of wine drinking personality you might have.

11 Wine Drinker Personalities

wine newbie

1. The Wine Newbie:

Someone new to wine usually starts with a sweet or semi-sweet white wine. If you are learning to drink wine, white wines can be easier to taste, fruitier, less challenging, and refreshing, with lighter body and alcohol.

The inexperienced pay less for wine, opting for the $10 or under range. With an appealing price and simple taste profile, Gallo’s Barefoot wines became crazy popular among this group.

Many of these wine drinkers will stick with a simple wine because it's so easy to drink. You’ll find more women in this category.

For those celebrating their 21st birthdays and looking to get the most bang for their wine buck!

wine tourist

2. The Wine Tourist:

Wine tourists want to bring home memories to savor, whether from the post-college backpacking tour of Europe or the romantic vacation to the French or Italian Riviera. They don’t care about wine quality or price; they want to cherish the experience and relive the freedom and joy of touring.

Maybe you took a once in a lifetime vacation to Tuscany and just loved the wine. Maybe you just took a long weekend in Baja California and loved the wine at one of the many wineries there. It's all about the experience and rekindling those memories.

For those who went on a Grand Tour of Europe and returned home enthralled by Chianti Classico, Bordeaux, and the great Riojas of Spain, the wine tourist is eager to share the wines that accompanied their personal experience!

wine adventurer

3. The Wine Adventurer:

For the Wine Adventurer, every bottle of wine is an exploration to a far away land to indulge the senses in the tastes and smells of vinous diversity. These are wine aficionados who want to learn about wine around the world.

From Patagonia (high elevation Pinot Noir) to Georgia (Saperavi made in amphora) , the wine world’s infinite variety keeps them engaged. They’ll buy mixed cases of wines from different countries, refining their palate as they taste.

Friends will be subjected to a new country or variety every time and may find maps on the Globalist’s wall with little pins checking off the countries and regions. Checking off another region brings them joy.

For those who prefer the perfect (large) glass with a favorite documentary!

Old World Wine Traditionalist

4. The Old World Wine Traditionalist:

Only Old World will do for these wine drinkers. None of that fresh and fruity stuff from the New World. People who are traditionalists drink in homage to France, Spain, and Italy. They’ll occasionally allow a German wine, but rarely.

If a country has made wine for thousands of years, they must know best. Traditionalists tend to have wine cellars where they can store their favorite Burgundy, Bordeaux, or Brunello di Montalcino.

For those who love sharing their cellar’s bounty with their wine dinner guests!

Wine Socialite

5. The Wine Socialite:

Just go with the wine flow for these folks. Mostly learning about wine through friends or partners, they try whatever is around, but prefer soft, fruity dry wines, like Merlot.

They won’t go out of their way looking for something unique but will bring the cheapest version of the most popular wine to a party. From a 3-liter box to large-format bottles, whatever is on the table is okay by them.

For those extroverts who are always having a party!

Wine Loyalist

6. The Wine Loyalist:

This is your friend who always shows up at your house with their own wine, preferring it to whatever you serve. Some stick to the same wine because they don’t know what else to try. Others don’t want to try new brands, even if similar in style.

Be it a buttery Chardonnay or a California Zinfandel, they know what they like, and that is that.

For those who love a beautiful glass of wine while watching the sun go down from their porch!

Wine Showboat

7. The Wine Showboat:

It's all about the status and the money, honey. Napa Valley or high-end Bordeaux wine is the promised land for these guys and gals. You’ll find more men in this category. The competition, the inaccessibility, the high prices, the power!

The scions of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and Manhattan move in these wine circles. They drink big, tannic, oaky wines with or without food but often with a cigar. Their language is all about ratings, scores, and prices. If the wine has been blessed by Wine Spectator, James Suckling, Antonio Galloni, or The Wine Advocate, then this drinker confirms he has chosen a verifiably outstanding wine.

For those with the resources to treat their guests with the most extraordinary experience!

Amateur Wine Sommelier

8. Amateur Wine Somm:

Wine is the only drink when it comes to food, and it must enhance, not detract, from whatever dish is served. They view wine as an essential element of the meal, like bread or salad.

Foodies typically prefer wines with elegance, higher acidity, and lighter alcohol and body. Pinot Noir is a favorite grape, but they know how to find the proper wine to make every meal seamless.

For those who ensure that every meal is properly paired!

wine lover

9. The Wine Lover:

Wine enthusiasts to the max, this group encompasses the traits of many of these groups. They appreciate wine in all its complexity and variety. From the lowliest Pinot Grigio to top-flight Champagne, these wine drinkers love it all. This is a daily wine drinker.

They may have personal favorites, but they are always challenging their palate to grow their knowledge and love of wine. Wine is not just a beverage but a way of life.

For those who love wine for all its splendid diversity!

thrifty wine lover

10. The Thrifty Wine Lover:

This wine lover is a Backyard Betty who just loves wine, at the right price. She tends to purchase 1.5L Magnum bottles and boxed wines, mostly from the grocery store or her nearest liquor store. She likes her wine cold, often adding ice to the wine.

She prefers a softer, lower alcohol, diluted wine that she can drink all night (or all day). Heavy red, tannic wines, and mouth drying oaked wines are not for her.

healty clean wine drinker

11. The “Healthy & Clean” Wine Drinker:

These wine drinkers approach wine the same way they approach food. They care about everything they ingest. They read labels, do research, and find out exactly what is in their food and drink. They have a preference for wines that are labeled organic or biodynamic. They look for labels that they know are made naturally, “clean” without additives. Often, the health-focused wine drinker prefers wines that are lower in alcohol and lower in sugar.

They may be on a keto or paleo diet, or are concerned over added ingredients or those that are not natural. They buy everything organic, going to farmer’s markets and Whole Foods. Only natural will do, including natural wines.

For those who prefer everything organic!

Enjoy More Wine!

No matter who you are as a wine drinker, we encourage you to try more wine. Branch out beyond your favorite grape or brand or preferred region.

Cheers! Santé! ¡Salud! Salute!

The History of Santa Barbara Wine Country, Part 1: The Early Years

The History of Santa Barbara Wine Country, Part 1: The Early Years

Santa Barbara Wine Country may be the most dynamic wine region in California today. From the Wine Ghetto in Lompoc to the newest AVA, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, innovation abounds throughout the County.

While this Central Coast wine region is only 50 years old, it has become invaluable to California’s economy and wine industry. Growing from nothing after Prohibition, the wine business contributes $1.75B and 10,000 jobs to the state’s economy. (Alison Laslett, CEO of Santa Barbara Vintners)

In this three-part series, we’ll follow the path of this astonishing growth.

Rethinking Spanish Colonization

Given the massive cultural changes happening in 2020, the Spanish colonization of the New World looks different. We’ll not touch on that meaningful conversation here, but for California wine, the Spanish conquest was pivotal. Without it, the California wine industry might have evolved differently.

Though wild grapevines grew in the U.S. and California, native people didn’t know wine. They made a fermented beverage from cherries.

Europeans had a different experience. The Spanish, much like the Romans, carried Vitis vinifera grapevines on their explorations. Their Catholic church services required wine, and it was also their daily beverage.

The first vinifera wines brought to the New World came into Mexico, maybe during the 1520 expedition of Hernán Cortés. Records aren't clear about the date.

An essential part of the growth of the colonies, Spain and France supplied the raw material for wine. It was impossible to supply the amount of wine needed without local production. Experiments with local wild grapevines resulted in inferior quality wine.

Grapevines came into the territory once called Alta California in 1782. The intrepid Franciscan friar of Spain, Father Junípero Serra, oversaw colonial expansion through building missions to convert natives to Catholicism. The first mission was built in San Diego in 1769 and the last of 21 in Sonoma in 1823.

Serra earned the honor “Father of California Wine” because he planted the Spanish grape, Listán Prieto, wherever he could. The grape became known as the “Mission” grape because all 21 missions had vineyards, though not all thrived.

Serra may have planted the first vineyard at the San Diego mission in 1779, though records no longer exist. He died in 1784 at the age of 71 and was buried at mission #2 in Carmel.

santa barbara county missions

The Missions of Santa Barbara County

Father Serra did not plant vineyards near any of the three missions in Santa Barbara County due to political troubles. He planted vineyards at only the first nine missions. But, he did plant a different vineyard near the city in 1782, two years before his death.

The Santa Barbara missions were: 

 Name - Order # Founded Vineyard Notes
Santa Barbara - #10 1786 San Jose
Vina Aroya
La Cieneguita
Second largest vineyard production of the 21 missions
La Purísima Concepcíon - #11 1787 Jalama
San Francisoto
Near Lompoc, the largest mission of the three
Santa Inés - #19 1804 Refugio
Arroya Hondo

Near Solvang, built to reduce overcrowding at the other missions


The sale of wine, and brandy, brought much-needed income into the missions. The popular wines made from the Mission grape were sweet and light with low acidity.

Secular producers of wine and vineyards included several Comandantes of the three military presidios established by the Spanish in Santa Barbara.

Spanish land grants allowed owners to establish ranches throughout the town and the county. Some vineyards and wine production took place at Refugio Canyon and along Zaca Creek.

The Mexican government mandated the missions be secularized in 1834. Over the next decade, missions and vineyards were abandoned, including those in Santa Barbara County.

santa barbara wine country gold rush

The Gold Rush

The Mission grape lived on in California, especially in San Gabriel. Large-scale wine production continued thereafter the missions ceased religious operation.

Southern California had a thriving wine trade through the mid-18th century. Many immigrants planted vineyards there, as did the first American born on U.S. soil.

Many of these wine producers sold wine to the ever-growing numbers of prospectors searching for gold in the north. Northern California’s transition from gold to wine began in the mid-1800s, and, by the turn of the century, the north had become the dominant wine producer.

In the latter half of the 1800s, European immigrants planted vineyards and made wine in Santa Barbara County. Vine plantings reached 90,000 by 1858.

The vineyards of the Santa Barbara Mission in Goleta became the property of an Irish immigrant, James McCaffrey. He managed the San Jose vineyard and winery until his death. One of his workers, an Italian named Michele Cavaletto, took it over in 1900. He ran it until 1918, and it remains in the family today.

In 1984, Santa Barbara County named the winery building, the oldest man-made structure in the area, a historic landmark. Not open to the public, the Cavaletto family preserves the old adobe winery while managing the ranch. Wine is not part of their business today,

Around 1900, 13 vineyard production areas existed throughout Santa Barbara County. Prohibition wiped them out. Some people tried to hold onto their vineyards but with little success.

Pioneers After Prohibition: The Early Days

Prohibition, the Depression, and the Great Wars essentially ended the wine business in Santa Barbara County, and elsewhere.

The wine business didn’t reappear in Santa Barbara County until the 1960s. Setting the stage for the emergence of the new industry, UC Davis graduates plus grape growers from the San Joaquin Valley ventured in.

The first commercial vineyard, the famous Nielsen vineyard, lay east of Santa Maria. It was planted in 1964 by UC Davis graduates, Uriel Nielsen and Bill DeMattei. Part of the historic Rancho Tepusquet, they sold their first harvest in 1968 to Christian Brothers of Napa Valley. Nielsen’s family grew commercial food grapes in the San Joaquin Valley.

Another son of a San Joaquin grape-growing family, Louis Lucas, planted a vineyard in 1969 on Tepusquet Mesa. They hired Dale Hampton to manage it. Hampton started a wine-growing consulting company in 1972 that remains in business today.

The Miller family, long respected for wine grape-growing in Paso Robles, planted a vineyard in Santa Maria in 1973. They named the vineyard, Bien Nacido, a famous vineyard indeed.

In these early days, the focus was on grape-growing and selling. 1975 saw 32 growers and only four wineries.

santa barbara wine country founding 13 wineries

The Founding 13 Wineries

By 1983, with notoriety building, wineries grew to 13. Together, these wineries founded the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association. The Santa Maria Valley AVA had already been established in 1981, and the Santa Ynez Valley AVA was established in 1983.

 Winery Founded
Santa Barbara Winery 1962
Rancho Sisquoc Winery 1968
Santa Ynez Winery 1970
Sanford & Benedict 1971
Zaca Mesa Winery 1973
Ballard Canyon Winery (Rusack Vineyards) 1974
Brander Vineyard 1975
Firestone Vineyard 1975
Mosby Winery 1976
Houtz Vineyards (Beckman Vineyards) 1984
Byron Vineyard & Winery 1984
Gainey Vineyard 1984
Foxen Vineyards & Winery 1985


 Here is a look at these original 13 wineries. 

1. Santa Barbara Winery - 1962

In 1962, a Canadian wine shop owner named Pierre Lafond founded the Santa Barbara Winery in present-day downtown. He purchased grapes from vineyards further south to make wine. A few of his customers had tried planting grapevines to no success. He finally planted a vineyard in 1972 in the Santa Rita Hills, west of Buellton.

2. Rancho Sisquoc Winery - 1968

With an impressive history, the land of Rancho Sisquoc Winery, near Santa Maria, hails from an 1852 Mexican land grant. San Franciscan James Flood founded a cattle ranch and farm on the property in 1952.

He started a vineyard in 1970 planted with Johannisberg Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, selling grapes to Geyser Peak in Sonoma. Vineyard manager Harold Pfieffer started experimenting with winemaking in 1972. A tasting room, perhaps the first, rose in 1977.

The San Ramon Chapel, shown on the label, was built in 1875. It became the County’s first official landmark in 1966. Mass continues to be held every Sunday.

3. Santa Ynez Winery - 1970

Claire Bettencourt and G. C. Davidge were ranch owners in the Santa Maria Valley. Purchasing property on the site of California’s first college, they created College Ranch in 1969. They sold grapes to Paul Masson Winery in Soledad.

In 1975, they created a winery called the Santa Ynez Winery due to its location in Santa Ynez. Fred Brander was the first winemaker, and Australian Mike Brown spent four years here. Mike worked with Ken Brown at Zaca Mesa and Bill Mosby, both Santa Barbara wine pioneers.

Bettencourt also started a winemaking cooperative in Santa Maria as an outlet for grape production.

4. Sanford & Benedict - 1971

Botanist Michael Benedict and Richard Sanford planted the famous Sanford & Benedict Vineyard in the Santa Rita Hills in 1971. Initial plantings included Chardonnay and Riesling, with Pinot Noir coming in 1972.

Sanford and Benedict were focused on making and selling wine, not growing and selling grapes. Their first vintage in 1976 caused people to take notice, raising the vineyard’s profile. Its Pinot Noir vines are the oldest in the County.

The partners split in 1980. The vineyard stayed with Benedict, while Sanford and his wife founded The Sanford Winery in Buellton, in 1981.

5. Zaca Mesa Winery - 1973

Oil executive Marshall (Lou) Ream, commercial real estate developer John Cushman, and other investors founded Zaca Mesa Winery in 1973. Their goal was experimentation.

Ken Brown became the first winemaker in 1976, influencing the decision to plant Syrah. The well-known block called “Black Bear Block” was the first syrah vineyard. They built a winery in 1978.

Other major winemakers worked here over the years, including Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist.

6. Ballard Canyon Winery - 1974

In 1974, dentist Gene Hallock founded the Ballard Canyon Winery near Los Olivos, on land which Rusack Vineyards now owns. He specialized in Johannisberg Riesling.

7. Brander Vineyard - 1975

Owner and winemaker Fred Brander started one of the first estate vineyards, Brander Vineyard, in 1974 east of Los Olivos. He planted vines in 1975 and built the winery in 1979. Plantings included Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Semillon.

Bordeaux varietals are still unusual for Santa Barbara County. Some original Sauvignon Blanc vines remain to this day.

8. Firestone Vineyard - 1975

Leonard Firestone, U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, purchased a ranch north of Los Olivos in 1971. He planted a vineyard in 1972 to grow and sell wine grapes further north. He created the first estate winery with his son, hiring Anthony (Tony) Austin as the founding winemaker.

9. Mosby Winery - 1976

Lompoc dentist, Bill Mosby, made wine while in college at Oregon State. Purchasing land in 1963 near the Santa Ynez River, he created a vineyard in 1971. Another vineyard came along in 1977 south of Buellton, where he built a winery.

10. Houtz Vineyards - 1984

Dave and Margy Houtz built Houtz Vineyards in Los Olivos in 1984 and hired John Kerr as a winemaker. Beckman Vineyards purchased the property in 1994.

11. Byron Vineyard and Winery - 1984

In 1984, (Byron) Ken Brown founded Byron Vineyard and Winery in Santa Maria. Brown purchased the historic Nielsen vineyard in 1989. He also later purchased Bien Nacido Vineyard and Julia’s Vineyard, both part of the original Tepusquet Ranch.

12. Gainey Vineyard - 1984

Daniel and Robin Gainey started the Gainey Vineyard in Santa Ynez in 1984, planting Sauvignon Blanc and Johannisberg Riesling. They may have been the first to blend wine and tourism through hosting concerts, cooking demonstrations, and wine classes.

13. Foxen Vineyards & Winery - 1985

English sailor, Benjamin Foxen became a naturalized Mexican citizen known as “Don Julian” and “Guillermo Domingo.” He first visited Santa Barbara in 1818. In 1837, he took ownership of Rancho Tinaquaic, of which 2,000 acres remain in the family today.

Dick Doré, Foxen’s great-great-grandson, and winemaker Bill Wathen established Foxen Vineyards & Winery in 1985 on the historic ranch. The winery’s brand is an anchor in honor of Don Julian.

santa barbara wine country making its way

Santa Barbara Wine Country: Making its Way

The Santa Barbara Wine industry has come a long way in a short time due to the vision and persistence of dedicated pioneers.

We’ll move into the growth during the decades of the 1980s and 1990s in the next installment. As the industry matures, significant changes take place.

Planting a Vineyard: Does Soil Matter?

Planting a Vineyard: Does Soil Matter?

Thinking about planting a vineyard? Then, you probably want to know about soil. Does soil matter when planting a vineyard?

The simple answer is no. Grapes can pretty much grow in any soil. Wild and cultivated grapevines grow around the world. You can make wine from any grape grown in any soil. Wine is just an alcoholic fermented version of grape juice made for human consumption.

BUT, if you want to make wine someone else wants to drink and pay for, then the simple answer is yes. But, the concept is more complicated.

vineyard soil matters

Soil Matters

So, what’s the fuss over soil these days? Restaurant wine lists now include the soils in which the grapes were grown. Is this another sommelier geek-out or just another marketing angle?

While there is controversy over the idea that you can taste or detect soil in a wine, soil does indeed have some influence on the quality of a wine.

Let’s take a look at how soil impacts the quality of wine.

A Skip Through the Wine Timeline

Humans have been growing and transporting grapevines and making wine for a very long time.

Apologies to the Republic of Georgia and the other Near and Middle Eastern countries with ancient winemaking histories, but we’ll pick up the story in Europe.

Romans made wine from native Italian grapes and carried their vines with them as they conquered Europe, planting them everywhere. Wine was part of the soldiers’ daily rations. Wine not only augmented meals, but was integral to their Catholic church services.

As man cultivated wine over time, more thought went into the process.
Burgundy’s monks spent hundreds of years documenting Burgundy’s soils and the resulting wine. As the monks planted the same vines in a variety of soils and made wine, they learned that wines differed depending on the soil. The concept of terroir was born.

Fast forward thousands of years and you find grapevines and winemaking in dozens of countries, all with different soils.

According to Jancis Robinson, there are around 10,000 grape varieties throughout the world today. Each one contains flavor and aroma compounds in various combinations and are impacted by the soils in which they grow.

In 2017 world wine consumption was 24 billion liters accounting for $29 billion in revenue to wine producers. This number doesn’t include sales at the importer, distributor, wholesale or retail levels.

what grapevines need to thrive

What Grapevines Need to Thrive

Grapevines need certain conditions to thrive and to produce the fruit to make high-quality wine.

The basic needs for a grapevine to flourish include:

  • Soils in which the vine can secure itself
  • Enough, but not too much, water
  • The right balance and composition of nutrients
  • Sunlight for photosynthesis and ripening the grapes

While soils can impact a grapevine’s productivity and fruit production, the full impact is impossible to isolate from all the other factors contributing to a wine’s quality. But it is generally understood that grapes for fine wine need more stringent conditions to develop depth of flavors and aromas.

Soil is an essential element because it holds the plant and supports its access to water and food (nutrients.)

When you think of soil, you might be thinking of your garden and the topsoil at the surface. The roots of most agricultural plants stay closer to ground level for easier access to water. Table grapes and mass-produced grapes for wines that are mass-consumed are made this way.

Grapes for fine wine need more stringent conditions to develop depth of flavors and aromas. The soil is an essential element because it holds the plant and supports its access to water and food (nutrients.)

But a shallow root system doesn’t work for growing the grapes needed to produce fine wine. A shallow root system results in shallow wine, meaning that the quality of the grapes suffers if the roots stay at the surface.

A deeper root system helps regulate the appropriate balance of water and nutrients at the right time during the growing season, producing better quality grapes.

For example, vines growing in rocky, well-draining soil tend to deliver grapes that are riper and more concentrated, while soils that hold a lot of water, such as clay, can create grapes with more diluted flavors and aromas.

An odd note: You can grow grapes in a hydroponic system!

how soil impacts wine quality

How Soil Impacts Wine Quality

Because grapevines grow in soil, the type of soil contributes to the resulting fruit from the vine, including sugar levels. Productive soils produce healthy vines due to strong nutrient uptake but may result in less healthy fruit because the nutrients go into the vine instead of into the fruit.

For quality wine, the plant needs to spend most of its resources on growing grapes, not vines.

Let’s consider different aspects of soil:
  • Composition – physical factors including type, temperature (color/heat retention), particle size, organic matter, pH
  • Water absorption
  • Nutrients/microbes – chemicals, yeasts, bacteria
  • Plant competition – from cover crops or other grasses or plants
  • Viticultural practices - rootstock choice
  • Environmental practices including pest management

One of the primary purposes of soil is to give vines stability, a place to put down roots and grow. Grapevines must have proper support for the growth needed to hold the bunches.

Plant growth must be controlled for fine wine. The plant should not over- or under-produce. Some call this the “Goldilocks” effect: every factor must be just right. If there is too much or too little growth, quality can suffer due to the impact on:

  • yields
  • ripening ability
  • color, sugar, and tannin levels
  • yeast development
  • the balance of flavors and aromas in the berries

Of course, with any soil holding grapevines, water and nutrients can be managed by the grower, thereby mitigating limitations placed by nature.

Growers can enhance vineyards soils by planting cover crops between rows of vines. These crops can reduce erosion and run-off and suppress weed growth. Effective management of cover crops protects the soil.

The rootstock of the vine grows in the soil, not the vine itself. Not all rootstocks take to all types of soil, so rootstock choice matters.

vineyard soil and water relationship

Soil and Water Relationship

When considering planting a vineyard, the grower must determine water access and control during each stage of the plant’s growth.

The way soils interact with water contributes to fruit quality. Some water stress helps grapes develop more concentrated flavor compounds and thicker skins for stronger tannins.

But, having too little water reduces plant and fruit development resulting in low production with unbalanced berries high in sugar and low in acidity.

The soil composition helps determine water absorption in the roots of the vine. It also interacts chemically with surrounding nutrients to provide food for the plant.

For wine grapes, soils that mitigate extremes of water and nutrients provide optimal conditions. Rockier subsoils, with some topsoil, tend to have these conditions.

Different Soil Types for Wine Grapes


Soils with high sand content are very porous, water drains right through, a benefit for the vine. But sandy soils can lose too much water, and supplementation might be needed. The dreaded Phylloxera pest cannot survive in high content sandy soils, another distinct benefit.
Examples: Barolo in the Piedmont region of Italy; Medoc region of Bordeaux


Soils with a good amount of clay remain cooler during hot weather and hold water well. When the roots stay cooler, the grapes tend to retain more acidity. Too much clay, though, will stop the vine from searching deeper for water and the roots could stagnate. Clay soils tend to be rich in nutrients.
Examples: Pomerol in Bordeaux; Barossa Valley in Australia


This soil type sits between sand and clay and allows water to easily pass through. Some silt-based soils are acidic, with pH levels around 5 (more on pH later.)
Examples: Eastern Washington State; parts of Austria


Loam is a mix of each of the above soils, plus some amount of humus (organic matter.) Depending on the mix, loam can be called clay loam or sandy loam. Soils with humus have more nutrient capacity and can be overly fertile. They may also harbor unfavorable bacteria.
Examples: Sonoma and Napa Valleys (valley floor)


Chalk (calcareous) tends to sit atop limestone, contain high levels of calcium carbonate from decomposed shells, and have an alkaline pH between 7 and 8. Sometimes found with a mix of clay, it tends to drain well.
Examples: Burgundy (especially for white wine); Adelaida District of Paso Robles


Stony soils support water run-off, are less nutrient-dense, and limit growth resulting in lower yields and more concentrated fruit.
Examples: Chateneuf-du-Pape with large “galettes”; Pessac-Leognan in Bordeaux with petit “pebbles” or “cos”.


Volcanic soils contain fine grains, hold heat and water, but drain well. They are rich in minerals such as iron, calcium and potassium.
Examples: Slopes of Mt. Etna, Italy; Santorini, Greece

The vine needs only a small amount of nutrient-dense humus; hence there is little need for deep topsoil for wine grape growing. Soils with too much humus result in excessive growth at the expense of quality berries.

Some soils contain small or large rocks that can help the soil retain heat in a cooler site. Some soils encourage specific harmful insects or other pests that growers must manage.

In Santa Barbara County, where Martellotto Winery is located, there are many different soils from limestone to crumbly sedimentary rocks to clay and loam (a combination of sand and silt.) With such distinct soils, the County supports a diversity of grape varieties and a wide range of wines.

vineyard soil profile

Soil Profile

Because finding, purchasing, and planting a vineyard is extraordinarily expensive and time-consuming, finding the right site is paramount. Beyond soil, the site must have other crucial factors, including certain natural features, a water source, and favorable climatic conditions.

The process of finding a suitable site should also include vineyard design. Before planting a vineyard, growers often contract for a “soil profile.”

A soil profile analyzes a vineyard site by taking deep soil samples from around the site. By analyzing the layers of the samples, soil scientists can define the site’s profile, identify areas of concern, and determine which varieties might grow best at each location.

Knowing the in-depth profile of the soil allows a grower to understand how the vine will mature. Because the roots of vines can grow very deep, up to 15 feet or beyond, each change in soil impacts the vine because of the nutrient combination and water capacity of each layer.

Most plants are susceptible to changes in nutrient levels and will experience different reactions when grown in multiple soils.

Some people believe older vines provide more complexity because the roots grow so deep through many distinct soil layers, but there is no empirical evidence.

Plant Food - Feast or Famine

Grapevines regulate the amount and timing of the nutrients it delivers throughout the season. Where the nutrients come from may not matter.

While it remains up for debate whether it makes any difference in the final product if nutrients come from the soil or are manually introduced, the plant will take them up either way.

Nutrient delivery in plants is like food with people: too much promotes excess growth, while too little inhibits development.

Grapevine food comes in the form of chemical elements. There are 14 elements the vine needs, including oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon. Let’s look at a few:

Nitrogen: Essential for growth, but, as with water, only the right amount will do. Too much or too little will have negative consequences. Nitrogen and phosphorus come from organic matter.

Potassium: Without enough potassium, grapes will not ripen. Impacts pH.

Boron, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium, phosphorus: These are needed in trace amounts. Affected by pH level.

Lime & Calcium chlorate: Calcium is required for healthy growth but lack of balance risks toxic iron chlorosis.
Salt: Too much salt in any soil will result in weak growth.

pH level: pH impacts the ability of vines to absorb nutrients but can be amended. Grapes grown in soils with higher pH levels may be more susceptible to bacteria.

Aluminum: Low pH soils tend to contain high amounts of aluminum, which can be toxic to vines.

Nutrient poor soil is typically best suited for growing grapes to make fine wine. Dark, rich soil, while excellent for most fruits or vegetables, is contraindicated for fine wine grapes

soil matters when planting a vineyard

Soil Matters When Planting a Vineyard

You can see the impact of soil in wine is not straight-forward. While climate and weather may have more direct and dramatic influence, grapevines live in soil, so the vine and its fruit cannot be separated from it.

How growers farm a vineyard, how the fruit is harvested, and how a winemaker manages wine production all contribute to making quality wine.

Grapes can grow in any soil and soils can be amended and managed. Quality wine can be made from fertile soil or poor soil. In fact, most vineyards are actively plowed, dug, irrigated, and fertilized.

At the core, vines need water, sunlight, nutrients, and soil. The combinations of these factors result in the quality of the wine, for better or worse.

There are other factors to consider. Environmental concerns top the list. The wide-spread use of chemicals and other artificial soil and pest and weed control treatments have led some vineyards toward organic and biodynamic viticulture.

Improving soil conditions may have the most impact in the face of climate change.
Increases in extreme weather activity will certainly impact vineyards and soil can help mitigate some of the impacts. Soils can take up and hold carbon and healthier soils can better withstand bouts of drought or deluge. Many vineyards are now dry-farmed, for example.

While an ideal soil may not exist, the importance of soil for wine grape growers does matter. A grower must understand the soil in the vineyard to achieve the results desired in the wine.

Take a close look the next time you see soil listed on a restaurant wine list.