Many components contribute to a wine’s overall expression; making it a fruity, light or full bodied wine, one that is sweet and rich in flavour, hard or balanced. It all comes down to the factors that affect how the grapes grow, which ultimately affect how a wine tastes. One of these core elements is climate.
Climates are grouped into two main types; warm climate and cool climate. Fine wine merchant – Berry Bros. & Rudd have selected a collection of six must-try wines to demonstrate the different styles from both, but examine how temperature changes within the region can affect its character too. From the warmer climes of South-West France and continental Italy to the cooler regions, temperature wise that is, of Northern France, North America and Germany.
Much like gardening, the climate, or the seasons’ temperature will affect the ripening pattern of your fruit and vegetables. The more sun they enjoy, the riper the fruit. The same applies to grapes. A riper grape will be sweeter and have higher alcohol content. But grapes that have not ripened will be sour and result in a lighter, tarter wine. Flavours also develop from a fresh, earthier taste to fruitier and sometimes tropical.
Warm Climate Wines
Warmer climates tend to have higher temperatures throughout the season which give the grapes more time to become fully ripe. The sugars accumulate easily during the long, warm growing season, meaning that the acid will soften and bring on full, rich and fruity flavours without being sharp.
In the region of Jurancon in South West France, the grapes are able to enjoy the sunny Mediterranean climate. But is also complimented by the altitude of the Pyreness mountains and the cooling influence of the Atlantic. With abundant sunshine in the day and much cooler night temperatures, the grapes accumulate high levels of sugar without losing its refreshing acidity.
The result is in a bottle of the2012 Camin Larredya, Jurançon au Capcéu, Moelleux, Jurançon (HK$210), whichhas floral aromas of honey, apricot and mango, along with fresh lemon and tangerine on the palate. There is also a hint of perfectly ripe quince to finish, making it a medium bodied and sweet wine to enjoy.
Heading to Barolo in the Northern Italy region of Piedmont, where the vineyard enjoys an extended warm summer and autumn, the grapes get plenty of sunshine to ripen.Located in the lower part of the vineyard’s slope, protected from strong winds, the climate enables an elegant wine to be developed.
Full-bodied and fresh, the 2006 Barolo DOCG Cru La Serra, Az. Agr. Giovanni Rosso (HK$560) has flavours of red berries and fruits, all marked with savoury nuances. The length of which catches wild berries, raspberries, cherries, violet and coffee with a bright tonic finish.
From the southern Italy region of Basilicata, this area often receives temperature extremes. The grapes here enjoy temperature fluctuation between day and night, with the heat of the day creating a concentrated character and the cool of the night ensuring the retention of acidity.
The 2009 Aglianico del Vulture, Stupor Mundi Basilicata, Carbone (HK$230) is a red damson-fruited wine with an elegant character. Deep purple and full-bodied from the super-ripe grapes, this wine has cassis aromas throughout, with cloves, volcanic spice and a crunchy black pepper and salty finish.
Cool Climate Wines
Cool climate regions can be just as warm in the peak of the summer season. However, it is because temperatures will drop quickly towards harvest and make the wines taste so different. The lower temperatures preserve the acidity and the grapes tend not to fully ripen, resulting in sharp flavours.
In this northern wine district of Burgundy, the grapevines are grown in a very cool climate. The cold continental weather holds the ideal conditions for chardonnay, helping the wine to retain more acidity.
The 2013 Chablis, Domaine Pinson (HK$180) is a light bodied wine with marine minerals resonating through. Along with subtle flavours of plum, the aromatics include light refreshing notes of citrus and green apples. This lively wine has high acidity and a fine long finish.
The low-lying Russian River Valley is influenced by cooling fogs and breezes that come through from the Pacific Ocean and it is this natural air-conditioning that helps it to retain natural acidity.
Rich with the aroma this 2011 Ramey, Russian River Valley Chardonnay(HK$260) from North America is a balanced wine with a delicate thread of tartness and finishing accents of orange blossom, along with roasted nuts and stone fruit on the nose.
Germany’s Mosel region is particularly cool and the grapes are often left on the vine, to continue to ripen during the season. This extended ripening develops the flavours further and when temperatures drop to -8C; the grapes are frozen. When picked, the frozen grapes create an intensely sweet Eiswein (Ice Wine) which balances the high acidity.
The2002 Erdener Treppchen, Riesling Eiswein Dr Loosen, Mosel(HK$1,466/37.5cl)of super ripe peaches, apricots and mineral flavours on a firm structure, leaves an essence of peach and a hint of vanilla on the finish, ending with a uplifting tangy note.
It is important to note that the vintage also plays a major role in how a wine will taste. A cool vintage wine can create extremely ripe tasting wines and warmer vintages can also produce wines of high acidity.
This selection of wines from Berry Bros. & Rudd illustrate exactly this, that it is possible to have micro-climates within a larger climate type, cool vs warm, and with climate change becoming a pressing matter of today, it is safe to say that many more varietals and styles will emerge, whichever style you prefer.