Climate and Its Impact on Wine

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In ancient times, almost every wine was what we’d today describe as a “field blend.”

Not much was known about specific grape varieties, and various varieties would be planted haphazardly. At harvest time, all of the grapes — both red and white varieties — would be fermented together to create a single cuvee for the vintage.

The first real “advancement” came when someone got the idea to ferment white varieties and red varieties separately. Then, instead of just one cuvee for the vintage, they had two.

As science advanced and the sharing of knowledge increased, it was discovered that specific types of wine grapes fared better in specific types of climates. The French were the first to latch on to this way of thinking, embodied to this day in their perception of “terroir” — all of the factors that contribute to a wine’s ultimate flavor, including the climate.

Every winemaker has his or her own idea of the type of wine they want to make from a specific variety, whether it’s extremely fruit forward, a bit more subtle and restrained, perhaps hinting at a bit of sweetness, and so on. Each “style” requires a specific level of ripeness in the grapes, and the vineyards are monitored constantly during the harvest season so the grapes (Mother Nature allowing) can be picked at precisely the right time.

Leaving as little as possible to chance, vineyards are now planted with the idea of maximizing the potential of each specific variety.

That’s why, in California as an example, you’ll see cool-climate-loving Pinot Noir planted in areas such as the Russian River Valley, the Sonoma Coast, Carneros and Santa Barbara County.

Likewise, it’s why you’ll find Cabernet Sauvignon which can handle heat better, planted farther inland, such as in the Napa Valley.

Because so many modern vineyards have been planted with climate top of mind, there’s now great concern among some growers and vintners that global warming could necessitate replanting or, at a minimum, grafting to more heat-resistant varieties at some point in some areas.

For now, however, most vineyards are perfectly positioned to produce the type of perfectly ripened grapes that vintners need to craft wonderful wines.

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Posted in Wine Buzz

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