Climate and Wine: How Cool & Warm Climates Impact Wine
If you’re into wine, you’ve probably heard about terroir, the French term roughly translated as “sense of place.” The romantic notion that wine tastes like the place where its grapes grew is more than lore; it’s science.
Here’s all you need to know about climate and wine, a complex relationship that defines wine styles and separates the good from the great. Understand climate’s influence on wine, and you’ll find tasting and drinking wine much more enjoyable. After all, with knowledge comes great pleasure. This is our guide to climate and wine.
The Climate Matters
All wine is made by fermenting grape juice, and although the process is a bit more complicated, wine and grapes are basically the same. And here’s where climate comes in — tart grapes produce tart wine, and ripe grapes become ripe, fruity wine.
Wine grapes need sunlight and warmth to ripen. During the process, some of their natural acidity diminishes while their sugar levels increase. More sugar means more alcohol, but also riper fruit aromas. In a way, the climate, or better said, the temperature during the vine’s growing season, determines the wine’s alcohol level, acidity, and aromatic profile. The environment is the actual winemaker here!
Wine regions with warm climates, such as southern France or Italy, and warm areas in California or Australia, specialize in grapes resistant to the arid weather. These include Syrah, Grenache, Tempranillo, and many others. Cold-climate wine regions are better suited for growing Riesling, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay, to mention a few.
Despite the grapes used to make wine, winemakers in cold climates will hardly ever produce wine with high alcohol levels; they’re tart instead. Wine made in warm regions will have prevalent alcoholic warmth and less noticeable acidity. In fact, winemakers might feel inclined to add a few scoops of tartaric acid to their wines to balance them out, that if their country’s lawmakers approve.
Notable cold-climate wine regions include Champagne, Burgundy, Germany, Southern England, Coastal California, and New Zealand. It’s no surprise for producers to grow Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in these regions. Noteworthy warm-climate wine regions include Languedoc-Roussillon, Sicily, Paso Robles, and Barossa. You’ll find lots of Syrah and Grenache planted in these arid lands.
Yes, cool-climate vs. warm-climate wine is different. Climate determines the wine’s personality, but this is just the beginning. Acidity, sugar, and alcohol in wine make it more or less compatible with a particular food. This means the climate AKA the terroir also determines the menu. As a general rule, acidity makes wine food-compatible, so cold-climate wine always has a place on the table. Warm-climate wine is richer, fuller, and best paired with intensely flavorful meals like grilled red meat. Alcohol might make spicy food feel spicier, and acidity can cut through the food’s fat. Of course, pairing wine and food is a vast topic we shall explore in future posts.
As for wine service, use the proper wine glasses for different types of wine. Cold climate varietals, such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, are most enjoyable in wine glasses with wide bowls, such as the Grassl wine glass Cru. Bolder red wines, like reds from warm wine regions, show better in Bordeaux-style stemware like the Grassl wine glass 1855.
The Bottom Line
Warm climates produce ripe grapes, therefore, bold, fruit-forward wines. Cold temperatures make tart fruit that becomes refreshing and elegant wine. Cool-climate vs. warm-climate wine. Who wins? That’s the best part—you don’t have to choose!
Both cold-climate and warm-climate wines have a place on the table and are best suited for distinct occasions and pairings. Have a Grassl wine glass for every type of wine and enjoy the best wines from every wine region worldwide.