Understanding slate soils in wine

Monday, 27 December, 2021
Wine Enthusiast, Amanda Best
How does anything possibly grow enveloped by rocks? Although the sight of slate in vineyards might seem ominous, the soil type is perfect for growing wine grapes.

From the Clare Valley vineyards in Australia to the Cederberg mountains in South Africa, slate soils are utilized all over the world.

“Slate is a low-grade metamorphic rock that is formed when muds that were deposited on ancient ocean floors are buried and heated up,” says Amanda Albright Olsen, associate professor of geochemistry at the University of Maine.

The word “slate” is believed to come from the Old French word esclate meaning “to split or break into pieces.” Used in roofing, tiling and flooring, slate’s durability comes from its mineral composition. This fine-grained foliated rock is composed mainly of clay minerals from pre-existing rocks like quartz and mica.

The slate rocks most often found in soils are gray, but slate also comes in myriad striking hues. Some winemaking regions with slate soil are known for their distinct colors, like Priorat’s deep black slate composites and the iconic blue or red slate of the Mosel.

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Understanding slate soils in wine
Understanding slate soils in wine

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