‘From virtually any soil a high-quality wine can be made. The use of geology to promote the quality of a wine is thus merely a marketing tool.’ 

This is an episode that may ruffle a few feathers. We speak to two wine-loving geologists, Professor Alex Maltman and Dr Geert-Jan Vis (the latter responsible for the quote above). Both of them raise serious questions about the line that the wine world endorses about how geology (think: limestone, schist, granite) influences wine.

Vis calls the notion that geology and soil influence wine style, ‘romantic b*llocks’. Maltman says it’s, ‘over-hyped’ and writes, ‘simply saying a wine comes from a particular rock doesn’t convey anything about what I might expect from a wine.’ 

And yet we regularly see wine literature talking about limestone or granite, Kimmeridgian or Jurassic (and so on) and link this explicitly to wine quality and style.

And this isn’t even to get started on the topic of ‘minerality’ in wine…

So what gives? What’s really going on here? To what extent can geology and soil be seen to impact the vine and wine? Or, to flip it round, to what extent do experts think that the role of geology and soil is over-rated and misunderstood when it comes to wine?

It’s important to say we’re not being deliberately controversial or trying to undermine the concept of terroir (the notion that specific places produce wines with specific characteristics). 

What we’re doing is asking questions and challenging a set of prevalent assumptions which we feel is…well…questionable. 

This is the first in a loosely-connected series of programmes in which we’ll tackle tricky or controversial issues in wine, from ‘minerality’ to microbiology and yeasts. All with the aim of provoking informed debate, challenging questionable opinions and seeking clarity above all.

Ps and if you don’t know what petrichor is – we’ve got the answer…



  • While Geert-Jan’s book is in Dutch and out of print, you can click here to read an abstract of their findings – and he did say he was thinking of publishing the full paper (in English) in due course
  • You can buy Alex Maltman’s book on Amazon
  • You can find our podcast on all major audio players: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google, Amazon and beyond. The button below will redirect you automatically to this episode on an audio platform on your device.

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  • Fancy having a laugh at Peter’s expense? There’s a hilarious moment of confusion in this episode caused by Peter’s mis-conceived pronunciation of ‘humus’ (the organic content of soil). He says it’s because he loves a certain chickpea dip just too much…
  • On this note, we ask why wine lovers are happy talking about limestone and granite – but not humus or compost or fertilisers or drainage or rootstock (and so on).
  • Want to know why limestone is not as vaunted as some wine people and literature suggest? It’s all in this episode.
  • Fool’s gold crops up in this programme. Enough said.
  • And yet…there is also an acknowledgement of ‘the wonder of it all’ too!

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