First Advisor

Scott F. Burns

Date of Publication

Spring 6-2-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Environmental Sciences and Resources: Geology


Environmental Sciences and Resources




Soils -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley -- Analysis, Pinot noir (Wine) -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley, Terroir -- Oregon -- Willamette River Valley, Wine and wine making -- Chemistry, Grape juice



Physical Description

1 online resource (xxix, 490 pages)


Terroir is determined by a combination of factors in the vineyard including the grape varietal, geology and soil, soil hydrology, physiography, and climate. Although most studies have examined regional differences in wine flavors and associated provenance of wine based on chemistry, few have examined the chemistry of the soil and the ability to trace that chemistry to grape juice and, finally, to the wine. This dissertation examines what soil physical and chemical differences specific to this region might influence grape juice chemistry and wine chemistry.

Wine-grapes in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, are grown on three major soil parent materials: volcanic, marine sediments, and loess/volcanic. Winemakers have observed differences in the flavor of Pinot Noir wine made from grapes grown on these different parent materials. This dissertation examines differences in the soil properties and elemental chemistry of the soil parent materials at various vineyards to document their effect on wine chemistry as a step towards understanding differences in flavor. All aspects of the terroir are controlled by carefully selecting vineyards with similar exposure and elevation, the same grape varietal and wine making techniques, and only the soils vary. The hypothesis is that the chemistry of the grape juice and wine reflect the soil in which the grapes were grown and that the three parent materials have soils that can be distinguished by their physical and chemical characteristics.

Soil pits were excavated in 20 vineyards, soil properties were described in the field, and soil samples were later analyzed in the laboratory particle size, organic matter, color, pH, cation exchange capacity (ammonium acetate method), clay mineralogy (x-ray diffraction), and elemental chemistry (ICP-MS/AES). X-ray fluorescence was used to examine the pisolites. ICP-MS/AES was used for elemental analysis of grape juice and wines produced from these vineyards. Principal component analysis was used to compare soil physical and chemical characteristics, grape juice and wine chemistry.

The physical characteristics of soils from all the three parent materials indicate: they are old (>50,000 years) based on their high clay content, low cation exchange capacity, red colors, and high Fe and Al content. These features indicate enough time has passed to reduce organic matter and other cations at depth, leave behind insoluble Fe and Al, and develop pedogenic clays. In my study region, volcanic and marine sediment soils are more developed with slightly lower acidity than the loess/volcanic soils. A new finding for this region is the presence of pisolites (Fe/Mg concretions) in the volcanic and the loess/volcanic soils, but absent in the marine sediment soils. Winemakers hypothesized that pisolites were present only in loess soils and influenced wine flavor in some way.

Volcanic soils have the highest P, S, Fe, Co, Mn, and V concentrations and the lowest As and Sr values. Marine sediment soils have higher Cl and Sr and lower P, Co, Mn, Ba, and V concentrations than volcanic soils. Loess soils have the highest values of K and Mg and are similar to volcanic soils with higher P and V values and similar to marine sediment soils with higher Sr values. The main elements found to be significant in determining one parent material from another are V and Mn (volcanic soils), Mg and K (loess soils), and Sr (marine sediment or loess soils). Sr is slightly higher in grape juice and wine from vines grown on marine sediment parent material compared to volcanic and loess parent material, whereas Mn is higher in the juice and wine from grapes grown in volcanic parent material. P, S, Fe, Co, V, Cl, Ba, Mg, and K did not maintain their relative concentration levels from soil to grape juice to wine. The principal component analysis shows that soil and wine chemistry differs between parent material, but is inconclusive for grape juice chemistry.


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