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The Terroir in Detail

The Soil Provides the Required Nutrients

The primary task of the soil is to provide the vines with sufficient nutrients; these are minerals such as potassium and calcium as well as substances such as nitrogen - basically what the plant cannot produce itself. Water is a vital element in this as it is essential for all processes within the vine on the one hand and it makes taking in the minerals possible in the first place on the other. The plant can only absorb what is water soluble. 

Vintners have to make sure to fertilize the soil intelligently. It is important that the actual plant benefits from it, but also the numerous microorganisms require nourishment for their activity. Too much fertilizer can be damaging, not least because it makes the soil’s typical features vanish which leads to the soil losing its typical characteristics and becoming replaceable. South Africa’s soils are highly multifaceted; the region of Stellenbosch alone has over 50 types of soil. Yet this is what makes South African wine so appealing, as a tasting always constitutes a little discovery.

A Terroir’s Location Defines the Ripening Process

Bei der Lage des Terroir geht es vor allem um das Verhältnis von Sonneneinstrahlung und Windeinwirkung. Anbauflächen sind an Hängen beliebt, da hier die Sonnenstrahlen in einem günstigen Winkel auf die Blätter der Rebstöcke fallen können. Nicht umsonst liest man immer wieder vom „Weinhang“ oder gar „Weinberg“. Eine gute Sonneneinstrahlung begünstigt die Wachstumsphase einer Pflanze, zugleich entstehen dadurch in der Rebe genug Nährstoffe und Energie, um die wichtigen Aromastoffe für die Trauben herzustellen.

Der Wind spielt beim Terroir und seiner Lage ebenfalls eine gewichtige Rolle. Erstens bestimmt der Wind den Grad der Verrieselung der Pflanzen, zweitens ist er Kühlung und Frostschutz zugleich. In den heißen Sommermonaten brauchen die Rebpflanzen zwar die Sonne, sie führt aber auch zu äußerst hohen Temperaturen. Da kommt ein kühlender Wind, idealerweise von einem kalten, größeren Gewässer gerade recht. In der kalten Jahreszeit verhindert zudem ein stetiger Wind, dass die Luft an einem Punkt steht und es so zu Tiefsttemperaturen kommt. In Südafrika ist es vor allem der sogenannte „Cape Doctor“, der Wind vom Atlantik, welcher diese wichtige Funktion übernimmt.

Climate and Microclimate for Viniculture

A terroir’s climate forms the foundation for successful vine growing. The vines can only ripen optimally with sufficient sunny days; additional factors such as average temperature as well as lowest and highest temperature are of vital importance. Furthermore, the climate determines the amount of precipitation and especially the period of time during which the rain falls. The climatic conditions also play a role for the wind which should not be underestimated. South Africa has a fairly constant climate, which is why you can count on a constantly high quality of the wine from South Africa. Some people go so far as to state that vintages hardly play any role, contrary to the European counterparts. We would not go that far as in South Africa, too, different vintages can taste differently; yet you will hardly find any wines of a lower quality. 

The microclimate is the climate at the smallest level; here, leaf growth and the amount of grapes stand in a complex relationship to one another. This interplay decides about how much sunlight reaches the leaves and the ground, the air circulation overall and up to the single leaves and what the temperature is like in the vine’s immediate surroundings. The microclimate is therefore an important element of the terroir and of viniculture. Per definition, it is impossible to make a statement for a national level. The microclimate is different at each winery, sometimes even from plot to plot.

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