CLIMATE CHANGE? WHY PLACE MATTERS!
The next time you’re in wine country, check out a vineyard: look closely at the earth, then look up at the sky. Wine grapes are sensitive to their environment. Their tastes and aromas are influenced by the dirt they grow in, yes, but also by the weather - everything from wind, fog and rain to the temperatures they bask in day after day.
Whether the region is warm or cool, grapevines awaken in the spring only when the temperature reaches 50 degrees Fahrenheit. And as sunshine floods across the landscape, the natural acidity of the grapes starts to go down, and their sugar level starts to rise. Eventually the day comes when everything is in balance, and they’re picked.
You could think of it this way: cousin Ted is crashing on your couch. At first, in addition to getting up late, he has nothing but time on his hands. But as he looks for a job, his spare time goes down. When everything falls into place for him, boom – he gets hired. Sweet.
In particularly warm climates like Napa Valley or Portugal’s Douro Superior, grapes develop dense, rich fruit flavors along with higher sugar levels that generally translate to higher alcohol in the finished wine. In the planet’s colder wine-growing regions – say, along the Mosel River in Germany – grapes retain more acidity. They have lower alcohol and often more subtle flavors, too.
In other words, in a warm climate, Ted has more job possibilities. In a cold climate, he has a tougher time developing leads, but he makes himself useful in other ways - by cleaning the kitchen, for example.
Weather can be defined as the meteorological conditions on a given day, while climate = long-term patterns in the weather. And climate change is indeed creating new challenges for winemakers. In places like northern France, the Teds of the world are finding jobs earlier and earlier in the year. And more and more of them may wind up working in northern China – or southern England – before long.
Improved technology in the winery enables winemakers to straighten out many of the curves that weather throws at them during the growing season. Still, when a year comes along that has perfect weather – when the days are long and warm, the nights are cool and rain seems to fall only when it’s needed – that is a year when wine grapes can develop subtle nuances along with layers of alluring flavor that are flat-out memorable.
Fist bump for Ted.
the Cru - Gordon Smith
CSW : Certified Specialist of Wine at DEP'S
HIRSCH VINEYARDS, Pinot Noir San Andreas Fault, Sonoma Coast California 2014
David Hirsch started planting vines on the extreme Sonoma Coast, Fort Ross-Seaview, in the 1980s and produces some of our favorite Pinot Noirs in the world. These cool climate vineyards show elegance and grace. Planted at 1500' a few miles from the Pacific off of highway 1, and surrounded by redwoods and fir trees on a crazy mixture of soils.
CLOS FIGUERES, Serras del Priorat, Priorat Spain 2015
This wine is a blend of Grenache, Carignan, and Cabernet Sauvignon, which all adore the warmer places on earth. Clos Figueras is the home of one of the great wine minds of our time Christopher Cannan and he has learned to harness the heat of southern Spain. These vines are grown in pure rock that gets pounded with sunlight all day, but with the master's hand, the wines are ripe and full but not burnt.
These producers are just scratching the surface on showing what climate can do to wine. Want more information? Just contact the Cru! We’re always ready to geek out about small producers or chat big picture wine tips.
See you next Sunday.
I am sure this reading has made you thirsty. Feel free to reach out and let us curate some incredible wine just for you.