Warm vs. Cool Climate Wines
Have you ever wondered why a varietal grown in one region can taste profoundly different to the same variety grown in another region? Or why some people prefer the wines of one region over another? The answer most often comes down to climate. Wines are sometimes described as being ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ climate – but what does that really mean, and how does it affect the taste of a wine? Taking our new release regional Pinot Noirs as an example, let’s explore how climate affects wine.
How climate affects wine
Climate plays a vitally important role in winemaking. It influences what grape varieties are grown in particular regions, the viticultural practices employed, and the overall style and quality of a wine.
Grapes are highly sensitive to temperature, and different varieties require different amounts of sunshine in order to ripen. Early maturing varieties – such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – require less sunshine in order to reach maturity. These varieties ripen early in the season in warm climates and mature slowly in cool climates. Late maturing varieties – such as Sangiovese and Nebbiolo – need a long growing season and high temperatures during ripening to achieve maximum quality.
The quality of a wine is determined by the flavour and aroma together with the balance of alcohol, acid, and tannin. With the refinement of modern viticulture and winemaking practices it is possible to produce high quality wines in a variety of climates.
Pinot Noir is perhaps the perfect varietal for a discussion on climate. Pinot Noir is a delicate grape owing to its thin skin, making them highly sensitive to the climate in which they are grown.
In a warm climate, the consistent temperature throughout the season produces fully ripened Pinot Noir grapes. However, Pinot Noir grown in warm climates often struggles to retain its acidity, which decreases as sugars accumulate. Therefore, time of picking is critical to producing a well-balanced wine with those lovely dark fruit characteristics such as plum and blackberry, rather than stewed and flabby flavours.
In a cool climate, Pinot Noir has to be grown in areas that are not impacted by early season frost. It also has to be grown in an area that is able to provide enough sunshine to ripen the grapes properly, in order to achieve good colour and body. Cool climates produce fresh, light, aromatic and nuanced expressions of Pinot Noir without tart and unripe flavours.
David Hook Pinot Noir
This year we’ve released two new Pinot Noirs – one from a warm climate and one from a cool climate – in order to showcase the variations in style produced by the different climates. The fruit for our 2019 Old Vines Pinot Noirwas grown at our Pothana Vineyard in the warm climate of the Hunter Valley, while the grapes for our 2019 Central Ranges Pinot Noir were grown in the cool climate of Orange.
So, what was the role of climate in producing these wines, and how does this influence the style? The vines at our Pothana vineyard must have a strong and healthy canopy in order to provide shade for the bunches in hot conditions, otherwise the grapes will shrink and can suffer sunburn. Our Pinot Noir ripened quickly in the warm January conditions. When this happens, you must be able to harvest on the day the grapes are at their best. The grapes were hand-picked in the cool of the morning, then chilled and cold soaked before fermentation.
In Orange, challenges appeared at both ends of the season. The danger early in the season is frost. The vineyards are on a north facing slope, as it is slightly warmer there with the cold air falling through the vineyard to the valley floor. There were many sunny days over the summer, but the temperature drops quickly in the autumn, so the grapes ripen slowly. We closely watched the weather, and the grapes are harvested before the autumn rains and cold weather arrived.
Keen to know more? Try our new release David Hook Pinot Noirs:
This wine has wonderful aromas of spice and leather. The palate is rich with red and black berry fruits, dried herbs and spices. Matured in French oak for 12 months prior to bottling, this is an earthy wine with fine tannin structure and soft acidity. This wine is produced from grapes grown at our Pothana Vineyard. The vines are 30 years old and low yielding, producing less than two tonnes per acre annually.
This wine has the brilliant aromas of plum, wild strawberry and spice. The generous palate shows bright red cherry with velvety earthy notes supported by elegant tannin structure and crisp acidity. Matured in French oak for 12 months prior to bottling. Perfect with smoked meats such as duck or salmon. Only 250 dozen produced.