Climate effect on wine production - Printable Version

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- mrm27 - 10-15-1999 04:26 AM

What's the simplest way of telling at a blind tasting whether the wine comes from a cool climate or a warm one? And which ones are counted to be warm? An which ones are cool?

- Jerry D Mead - 10-15-1999 04:41 AM

A very complicated question that can only be answered here in the most general of climate equals crisp levels of acidity. Very warm climates equal low acid sometimes flabby wines.

Example? In California...anything on the coast from Santa Barbara to Fort climate. In the interior...from Bakersfield to Modesto...warm climate.

FRance? Champagne and Burgundy very cool. Midi...very warm.

Conversely, different grapes do better in different climates. Pinot Noir, for example...especially likes cool climates...Riesling too.

Zinfandel can handle warmer temps as can Syrah/Shiraz....

- mrm27 - 10-15-1999 08:44 AM

Thanks for the reply. A further related question: you'd have thought that warmer climates would encourage earlier ripening and thus the period for "noble rot" to take place would be extended, so why is it that the greatest (Old World) botrytised wines are largely from the very coolest climates (Germany, Alsace)?

- Jerry D Mead - 10-15-1999 05:05 PM

Because it dampness that encourages the mold to get started, and then perfect humidity without too much sun to dry it out or wind to do the same, for it to really do its deed.

Very warm climates cause grapes to become very ripe very quickly, which causes sugar levals to soar, but acid goes down as sugar goes up and you end up with wine that feels like a Coke gone flat...just sugar water.

The amazing thing about Botrytis is that it mainhtains acidity while concentrating sugar.

- Thomas - 10-16-1999 08:49 AM

I suspect botrytis retains acidity while producing sugar (concentrating sugar, really) because cooler climates are where botrytis does best, as does acidity.

- Jerry D Mead - 10-16-1999 01:35 PM

Foodie...It goes beyond that, because if you over-ripen grapes (when that's posssible) even in cool climates the acid drops as sugar elevates. I think it's because the mold raisinizes the grapes in such a short time that what acid that is there is maintained...and the sugar doesn't really increase...except as to the total sugar to juice relationship...because there is so little juice remaining the sugar (brix) percentage goes sky-high.

One of our more technically oriented types can probably explain it better.

- Thomas - 10-16-1999 02:30 PM

True enough about acid dropping, but in cool climates, acids in Riesling and other late harvest-type grapes can be quite high to begin with -- between .8 and 1 percent is not uncommon. That makes for a long way down as the grapes ripen and concentrate sugars. And to slow up the acid reduction, while they concentrate sugars late harvest grapes also concentrate remaining acids in high ratio to what little juice there is.

- Randy Caparoso - 10-17-1999 07:12 PM

One more perceptible (in blind tastings) factor, gentlemen: warm climate wines tend to have riper, fruitier aromas and flavors, and higher alcohol structures (the latter due to higher sugar levels). Australian wines (i.e. Hunter Valley, Barossa Valley. and South Australian grown wines), are good examples -- Chardonnays from these regions are quite full in body and typically have sweetly scented, tropical fruit qualities, as opposed to Chardonnays grown in "cold" climate Burgundy (minerals, citrus, and crisp apple aromas) and even moderately cool climate California grown Chardonnays (like the pear/appley, stony toned Santa Barbara styles).

But as with all things involving wine, these are generalizations. Distinctions become blurred, and characteristics often reversed, due to factors such as vintage conditions and variant viticultural/winemaking methodologies.

[This message has been edited by Randy Caparoso (edited 10-17-99).]

- Thomas - 10-18-1999 07:40 AM

"Tis true about the generalization. Remember when we used to think that green pepper flavors in red wine was a sign of cool climate growing? Turns out that same green quality can develop in warmer regions where vineyard practices allow for too much canopy and not enough sun on the fruit.