I was conducting a tasting recently and bandying about some of the usual phrases, one being “a cool climate wine”.
It was at this point that someone interjected and asked – so what makes it a cool climate wine. What, someone dared ask a question while I am in full flight.
Reality check – good question!
It gave me pause to think before spitting back a standard response like:
Well it has to do with:
- GDD- Growing degree days (whatever that means). Actually, there is a formula that takes the average daily temperature and subtracts the base line which is 10 degrees Celsius. If positive outcome that is a GDD. Over certain number of GDD then it is warm climate, under and it is cool climate.
- GST- Growing Season Temperature (not the tax). Another calculation base on temperature is the average form every month of the growing season which is based on seven months. If this sits between 13-150 C, it is said to be cool climate.
- The geography. Where are we in the world and do we come from a lofty height? Demarcation is often based on comparisons with the uber expensive Old-world classics (will cover that in another article) and the latitude that they can be found at. Somewhere around the 45th Parallel apparently.
- Viticulture. Will grapes ripen enough this year? Or is another horrendous frost going to kill the crop and leave us destitute. If these are front of mind, then probably leaning towards being in a cool climate region.
All highly subjective and not really 100% defining. A combination of these gets us close but all a bit much to take in.
So, I proceeded to say, “To me it is all about style” – wine style that is. And do you want to be part of that style? For some it is a tradition and one they will always aspire to, regardless of climate change.
Cool climate wines are of finesse and elegance, exhibiting a touch less alcohol. Wines which teeter on the cusp of ripeness, where acidity provides a refreshing backbone and an ability to evolve and grow more complex. A structure where minerality has a chance to shine through and not be overshadowed by ripe fruit.
These are the hallmarks.
Regionality obviously plays a hand, however for those that straddle the border, there are ways to engage the ripening process. How this is then brought to a climactic end can influence the final result and provide us with wines of intensity or those of finesse.