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My first question was about soils, as many times we hear the words clay, calcareous, limestone, marl and so much more and I wanted to specifically get clarification on the difference between soils of sedimentary VS morainic origin, and right there I made the first mistake and the professore yelled at me virtually (brought me back to my school times when that would be a daily happening), but after all you learn by making mistakes, right?

Ciro Pirone

In episode 308 of the Italian Wine Podcast Stevie Kim and Professor Attilio Scienza likely achieved peak Everybody Needs a Bit of Scienza. Ciro Pirone, of Horizon Beverage Company in Boston, asked some questions about soils, Chianti Classico, and Menzioni Geografiche Aggiuntive. The professor got so wrapped up in providing a comprehensive lecture that he hardly noticed his fellow podcaster choking on a piece of cake (torta della nonna di Davide). In any case, no podcasters were harmed during the recording of this episode. Listen to the original recording of Italian Wine Podcast Episode 308. Ciro Pirone helped summarize Professor Scienza's response to his question, below.

About Ciro Pirone

Ciro Pirone is an Italian Wine Specialist at Horizon Beverage Company, a distributor/wholesaler in Boston, Massachusetts. He's also a Vinitaly International Academy (VIA) Ambassador.

Summary by Ciro Pirone

I was so excited to be able to ask a question or two to Professor Scienza and get clarification on a couple of subjects were confusion reigns supreme at times and as a matter of fact I realized that I was confused myself... Oh well, the never ending journey into Italian wines and its terroirs.

My first question was about soils, as many times we hear the words clay, calcareous, limestone, marl and so much more and I wanted to specifically get clarification on the difference between soils of sedimentary VS morainic origin, and right there I made the first mistake and the professore yelled at me virtually (brought me back to my school times when that would be a daily happening), but after all you learn by making mistakes, right?

The professor clearly explained that morainic soils are actually soils of sedimentary origin, so it is more correct to distinguish morainic (sedimentary) soils VS sedimentary soils (of marine origin).

Morainic soils are best defined as chaotic (including soils with many different characteristics), resulting from the glaciers’ bulldozing action throughout the 4 glacial epochs. (At this exact moment Stevie Kim almost choked on a piece of cake... NO! Jokes aside fortunately she was fine). Anyhow, throughout the glacier’s action or push and later retreat a variety of materials are left behind, in parts with rockier and sandy elements in the upper parts and clay, loom rich In the lower parts. The wines originating from morainic soils as an example In the Franciacorta, vary based on where the vineyards are located within the amphitheater upper or lower parts.

The sedimentary (marine coastal) soils which are very relevant throughout Italy (Puglia, Sicily) tend to be looser in composition with more tendency to heat up quickly and have lesser water retention.

Overall other than the specific soil composition the key to the different wines is due to vine itself and specifically the root system, that determines the chemical composition of the berries, together with climatic condition, depth of the soils, water retention.

We do know today that the physical characteristics of a soil are way more important than the mineral characteristics of the soils. Sedimentary soils are very important for quality wines as long as they don’t contain too much clay, not too cold or deep or retain too much water.

I guess with my first question I opened the pandora box and from there professor Scienza moved on to answer to my second question that was about Chianti Classico and specifically the differences in the wines of Greve VS Castellina VS Gaiole and I asked him what was his opinion on the quite open blending practices and if that tends to mask the purity of the wines.

He started by explaining that in the Chianti Classico soils are also sedimentary, locally referred to as Flysch, formed at the bottom of the sea, composed clay marls and sand also More commonly known as alberese (marls and rockier) and galestro (less clay). So the difference in the wines from Chianti Classico are tied to these specific soils that interplay with the elevations which are critical for the final quality of wines and create amazing differences. The blending changed quite a bit from the original recipe of Bettino Ricasoli to the more current blending practices (that include also international varieties), moving towards 100% Sangiovese based wines, that will help really understand the village designations within the Chianti’s Classico territories (Unita’ Geografiche Aggiuntive). Great to hear that, we love Sangiovese.

Fortunately Stevie Kim came back alive and talking at this point... No more cake for you!

Thank you both and it was so great to have such in-depth answers about such fascinating subjects, for sure we all need a bit of Scienza!