Uncovering the mysteries of wine: Analyzing elements of terroir of the Red Mountain American Viticulture Area using Geospatial Methods

Posted May 12th, 2010 at 1:47 pm.

Nithya Vasudevan
Paige Walker
Mentor: Dr. Christopher Oze

The purpose of this study is to analyze chemical and physical properties of the substrate (soil and bedrock) and climate, and the influence of their spatial correlations on the terroir of the Red Mountain AVA (American Viticulture Area) in eastern Washington. Wine-growing regions within the United States are referred to as American Viticulture areas. Terroir is a term that refers to this relationship between land and the character of the wine from that region, but only recently has become a scientific subject of study. Winemakers through out the world have asserted for centuries that several variables, including climate, soil chemistry, and geographic location, all impact the nature of the grapes produced in a certain area or terroir, and eventually the character of the wine. Evaluating terroir scientifically is difficult due to the multiplicity of variables involved.

As a result, this study solely focuses on soil properties, temperature, and sunlight exposure of the grape clusters within the Red Mountain AVA. Specifically, we are testing the soil samples from this region for pH, metal concentrations, hydraulic conductivity, and matrix potential. Though these analyses have been performed before, our ultimate goal is to geo-reference all of the data gathered, utilizing GIS (Geographic Information Systems). This allows us to statistically and spatially assess these two variables, and denote any correlations. As the smallest AVA in Washington, we were able to collect samples from all parts of the region, in the hopes of creating a detailed GIS map comprised of the resulting data. Though on a smaller a scale, this is a precursor to multivariable spatial analysis of other AVAs, which will then further the understanding of the connection between viticulture and terroir.

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