Geological reviews and advice to grape growers, the wine industry and the wine media
In addition to mineral exploration, Sodor Geosciences experience base includes geological studies of vineyards and how this interacts with terroir and wine production. Principal Consultant Chris Bargmann qualified as a Cape Wine Master (CWM) in South Africa in 2000. The CWM qualification is similar to the Master of Wine (MW) in the UK but with a strong technical (viticulture and winemaking) component. His CWM thesis “Great wines are Grown in the Vineyard” reviewed the natural and human influences that combine as part of what the French term as terroir.
The vine plant, and ultimately the grapes and wine it produces, is influenced by a combination of viticultural aspects (e.g. grape cultivar and rootstocks, trellising and pruning systems) and natural aspects (e.g. geology/soil, slope aspect, weather and climate). Over hundreds of years, the French have developed the concept of terroir and defined the vineyard sites where particular wine cultivars perform best, resulting in better quality grapes and wine, in the country’s relatively cool growing conditions. These sites are typically where the grapes produced regularly reach an optimal level of ripeness compared to those from surrounding areas which underachieve. Small changes in the natural environment (e.g. soil type, slope aspect) are frequently responsible for these sites, resulting in warmer growing conditions or longer sunlight exposure. Conversely, South Africa, a warm to hot wine producing region, shows an opposite scenario whereby cooler sites are preferred in order to slow the grape ripening process to avoid production of overripe (high sugar/low acid) grapes.
The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in both the number of vineyards being planted in the UK and the quality wines being produced – English sparkling wines now rank alongside Champagne in terms of quality. This is in part due to climate change (warmer temperatures and changes in weather patterns over the last two decades mean certain grape cultivars can now ripen routinely in the UK) and in part because of a better understanding of viticulture and terroir.
Sodor Geosciences can draw on experience from vineyards in South Africa, the UK, France, Australia, the USA and Canada, as well as more unusual wine regions such as Armenia, to provide vineyard geological reviews and advice to grape growers, the wine industry and the wine media. Copy-editing and proofreading services can also be provided to ensure wine articles, marketing literature and websites are geologically correct and consistent.