In the 16th century, race not only referred to a group of people, animals, or plants having a common ancestry but to a particular class of wine with a characteristic flavor supposedly influenced by the soil in which the grapes used in making it grew.
The golden Mountaine … which beares a wine of a more delicate and rich race than the Canaries, and inestimable plenty too.
— Giovanni Botero, Relations of the Most Famous Kingdomes and Common-wealths, 1630
A pipe Of rich Canarie … Is it of the right race?
— Philip Massinger, A New Way to Pay Old Debts, 1633
In the 17th century, the adjective racy was uncorked to describe such a wine having a taste indicative of the origin and natural characteristics of its grapes.
Some curious Pallates have called it Vin Greco, rich and racy Canary, not knowing what name to give it, for its excellency.
— Richard Child, letter, 1651
In time, racy came to describe other juices having a pure, natural flavor. For instance, an apple might be said to be "rich with racy juice."
From the notion that the soil gives the grapes used in racy wines their distinctive qualities, racy began being used to describe people or things characteristic of their birthplace or place of origin.
Scots were they both by temper as by birth, And both were racy of their native earth.
— Hartley Coleridge, "Young and His Contemporaries," circa 1849
This sense of the word was often used in the expression "racy of the soil." In the 1840s, the expression was popularized in Ireland when the Irish nationalist newspaper The Nation adopted it as a motto to indicate its distinct Irishness. Racy of the soil has not yet been tucked away in the annals of history; it is still occasionally evoked, particularly by the Irish.
On the other hand most 19th- and early-20th-century naturalists and conservationists in Ireland came predominantly from among the Anglo-Irish, and were not exactly racy of the soil. And most of our current habitats and wildlife regulation originated in Brussels.
— Paddy Woodworth, The Irish Times, 30 Apr. 2016
Wyssn is short, of course, for Whatever You Say Say Nothing. It is native to the Gael and racy of the soil.
— Fintan O'Toole, The Irish Times, 24 June 2017
Racy also came to specify things having a characteristic vigor, liveliness, or piquancy, such as a piece of writing, a speech, or a performance. That sense evolved in the late 19th century into the familiar use of the word for things risqué or suggestive.
Women who tell racy stories … can rouse a great deal of enthusiasm in a room full of men.
— "P. Bee," Vagaries of Men, 1901