Terroir, Part 1: Coastal Influence
Working in the tasting room, I am frequently asked about the effects the salt water has on our grapes. The simple explanation is that our unique location, as with any other vineyard or farm, is what distinguishes our product from any other in the world. In France, they would describe this as our terroir. What is terroir? So glad you asked…
Terroir is a term used to embody the cumulation of all the factors that influence a property’s inherent growing conditions. This includes not only geography and climate, but also geological and human influences as well.
Being located so close to the salt marsh and Little Narragensett Bay definitely has its benefits. Our proximity to the water, which surrounds the property on three sides, keeps our temperatures cooler in the spring and milder in the fall. This is important in that it reduces our risk of frost damage on both fronts. Cooler temperatures in the spring are helpful because it delays the beginning of the growth cycle by a couple of weeks relative to places more inland. For us, once growth begins the threat of frost is almost nonexistent. A frost post bud break can cause any growth on the vines to die, which would in turn set back the growing season for the year to come.
Our coastal influence also extends our growing season by several weeks in the fall. Typically, we can leave our grapes on the vines until the middle to end of October, where more inland one might be forced to pull the grapes earlier if the weather forecast calls for chillier temperatures. More time on the vine is important particularly for the red grapes which require higher sugar levels than white grapes to produce good wine. This makes our wine makers job much easier when working the harvest’s final product.
We are also fortunate in that, being so close to the water, our water table is quite high, and once the vines have fully matured, they can in a sense self-hydrate and do not require a lot of rain. As James explained to me, 20 mornings of heavy dew is equal to one inch of rain, about what a healthy grape vine requires per month. It is harder to keep your grass green in the summer than getting grapes to grow. As I have always said, “If I’m at the beach, the grapes are happy.”
Cheers to basking in the sun,