More than primary rock and loess

Geological Map of Austria, © AWMB

The rocks that form the source material for soils, but also our present-day landscape and climate, are products of the development of the history of the Earth. Geological research is focused on these aspects and the practical implications arising from these studies have raised the general awareness of geology, also within the wine community. The rocks determine how deep the roots of the vine can penetrate to find water, whether the soil is stony, sandy or loamy, whether the colour tends to be lighter or darker, whether it has the capacity to retain heat, air and water, whether clay minerals are present that facilitate the exchange of inorganic nutrients and whether the soil is inherently carbonate or lime-free.

Unconsolidated or consolidated, that is the question

About 70 percent of our domestic vineyards are located upon unconsolidated rock substrates while approximately 30 percent are sited upon soils that developed from consolidated rocks. Both groups comprise very different rocks, which are separated on the basis of the structure and composition of their chemical and mineralogical constituents. Included among the consolidated rocks are acidic granites, gneisses, schists and quartzites, basic amphibolites, serpentinites and basalts, and also marbles and limestone, conglomerates, sandstones and volcanic tuffs. Predominant among the unconsolidated rocks are first and foremost calcareous loess, sandy gravels and rock debris derived from river terraces as well as sandy and clayey silts, the remnants of a large lake landscape that formed in the wake of the retreat of the sea about 11 million years ago.

The Austrian Wine Marketing Board thanks Dr. Maria Heinrich, Head of the Department of Mineral Resources of the Geological Survey of Austria, for her contribution “Overview of the Geology of Austria and important characteristics of the rocks”.

Further Literature

HARZHAUSER, M., DAXNER-HÖCK, G., KOLLMANN , H., KOVAR-EDER, J., RÖGL, F., SCHULTZ, O. & SUMMESBERGER, H.: 100 Schritte Erdgeschichte. Die Geschichte der Erde und des Lebens im Naturhistorischen Museum in Wien. – Naturhistorisches Museum Wien, Wien, 2004.


MURAWSKI, H. & MEYER, W.: Geologisches Wörterbuch. – 12. Aufl., Springer Spektrum, Berlin-Heidelberg, 2010.


Geologie von Österreich - kurz und bunt. – Geol. B.-A., Wien, 2013.


VINX, R.: Gesteinsbestimmung im Gelände. – 3. Aufl., Spektrum Akademischer Verlag Springer-Verlag, Berlin-Heidelberg, 2011.


WILSON, J.E.: Terroir The Role of Geology, Climate, and Culture in the Making of French Wines. – Octopus Publishing Group Ltd., Univ. of California Press, Los Angeles – London, 1998.