Why cool climate matters

It’s much more expensive to establish and grow grapes in cool climates than in warmer climates. So apart from beautiful views there must be some substantial reasons to grow grapes here… There are and I’ll discuss a few of them.

There are a number of phenological changes that occur within the ripening berry; sugar increases, acid decreases, flavour and colour develop. When the temperature is ideal these various components develop simultaneously and with increased intensity. Cooler climates provide late season temperatures that optimize the ripening.

In hot climates the temperature is higher than ideal during ripening and the various components develop out of sequence resulting in wines of higher alcohol, lower natural acid, less flavour complexity and potentially less colour.

Another advantage of cool climate vineyards is the diurnal temperature variation, in that there is normally a large difference in day/night temperature. During the day the grape accrues carbohydrates via photosynthesis in the leaves, then at night during respiration the vine borrows back from the berry some of these stores. The lower the night time temperature the less the vine needs to borrow during respiration resulting in more intensity in the grapes.

“Apart from acids, sugars and colour constituents, there are other compounds which give grapes and wines their characteristic flavour and aroma. These include tannins and the many flavour and aroma constituents that develop particularly in the later stages of ripening. This is one reason why the final weeks, or even days, are so significant in the development of wine quality.”
(The Production of Grapes and Wine in Cool Climates, David Jackson and Danny Schuster, 1997)

Wines produced from cool climate fruit typically show more pure varietal characteristics than those produced from hot climate fruit. This makes them much better compliments and contrasts to food. Whereas hot climate wines are often described as a meal in a glass and can be a bit too powerful or too easy drinking to be as good a compliment to food.

Back in my university days one of my classmates working in the Hunter said, “the whole atmosphere of the winery improves when Orange fruit begins coming into the winery, the entire winery smells better”.

For this boutique winemaker it is definitely rewarding and worth the extra cost of growing grapes in the cool climate.

Wine has been described as sunshine in a glass… but it’s much more than that, it encompasses an entire story in a glass.

In the words of King Edward VII, “One not only drinks the wine, one smells it, observes it, tastes it, sips it, and one talks about it.”

So when you are looking for a great complement to food, great varietal expression or a wine that will reward your patience, should you decide to cellar it, reach for a cool climate wine. Better yet… enjoy it with friends and share the story.

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