Food, Home & Lifestyle

Primary Factors of Influence: In the Vineyard

James Suckling

Lesson time 13:51 min

All great wines begin in the vineyard. Learn the principles of viticulture as James teaches you the factors that influence a great wine, and the importance of soil, climate, varietals, and regions.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Soil • Climate • Varietals • Regions • Fermentation • Blending


I'm here in Tuscany at the estate of Tenuta Tignanello. It's owned by the family of Antinori. This Florentine family has been making wine here for over 600 years. Here on this estate, they make two world-class wines called Tignanello and Solaia. The vineyards are just behind me there-- iconic wines that age for decades. We're going to begin here in the vineyards with the grapes, and start our journey here so that you understand the fundamentals of soil and terroir. It's interesting that the principles of winemaking and viticulture are essentially the same around the world. The concept is, as a winemaker, I look for the best grapes and I try to maintain the quality in those grapes all the way through the wine-making process and into the bottle. So look at this experimental vineyard. Typical soils of the region-- alberese, which is high in calcium. These are fossils that have let off calcium products into the soil. There's other places in the world like that-- such as Burgundy, some places in the Central Coast, and California-- but this is particularly unique in Chianti Classico in Tuscany. Also interesting in this experimental vineyard are these stones. The Antinoris are always looking for better ways to cultivate their vines, even using these stones which are placed around the trunks of the vines themselves. And these stones reflect the sun and also take in heat during the day. So into the night, this heat reflects into the vineyards, and they're hoping that this will help the vines grow and produce better, riper fruit. It's key that there's not too much precipitation in the soil, because all sorts of things can happen-- from disease to dilution in the grapes. It's all about a balance in the soil and microclimate of the vineyards. These vines, to me, look in beautiful shape. The canopy has been well-maintained. It's shading the grapes so you're not getting much sunburn. It's all about having the right balance of foliage and the bunches of grapes to the age of the vine. That brings along perfect maturity-- as long as God gives us great weather. [MUSIC PLAYING] I love to feel the soil under my feet. It reminds me how important soil, vineyards, climate has to do with wine. It's key. It's everything. For example, here in this vineyard, with the alberese soils it provides the vines with just enough nutrition, but not too much. This makes the vines grow in a very balanced way. And in a way, they're suffering. But it's not that they're suffering. It's just that they don't want the vines to grow too vigorously or too quickly, because this produces the best quality grapes. And what's amazing to me about these beautiful vines-- I love to touch them-- each vine is like a different human being. They have different personalities. They grow up in a different way. Well, what's interesting-- these are 25 years old, but they look like they're six, seven years old. That's because they've grown with less nutrients than in oth...

About the Instructor

Called one of the “world’s most powerful wine critics,” James Suckling has tasted more than 200,000 wines over the past 40 years. In his wine tasting MasterClass, James tours legendary Tuscan vineyards and teaches you to explore the stories, history, and people behind every bottle. Deepen your knowledge of the properties in each sip, cultivate your passion, and choose, order, and pair wines with confidence.

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James Suckling

Flavor, aroma, and structure—Learn from wine master James Suckling as he teaches you to appreciate the stories in every bottle.

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