Understanding the general characteristics of each climate type helps you explore new wines from the climate type you prefer.
Wine regions are grouped into the two major climate types – warm climate and cool climate, reflecting the wide range in climates grapes can grow in. It also results in different tasting wines. Understanding the general characteristics of each climate type helps you explore new wines from the climate type you prefer.
Warm climate regions
- tend to have more consistent temperatures throughout the season;
- the slow temperature fall from summer into autumn allows grapes to become riper but the downside is that more of the natural grape acidity is lost;
- ‘riper’ creates generally fruitier higher sugar content and makes higher alcohol wines.
Cool climate regions
- tend to get just as hot as warm climates in the peak of summer;
- however, temperatures fall more quickly as grape picking season approaches – it’s this that makes cool climate wines taste different;
- lower temperatures preserve natural acidity but make it challenging for grapes to ripen;
- cool climate wine regions tend to produce zesty crisp fruit flavours and have more natural acidity.
The following table offers general guidance on the impact of climate on the wines made from grapes grown there. However, you should be aware that different grape varieties also produce different flavours.
|Wine characteristic||Cool climate||Warm climate||Hot climate|
|Fruit style||Lean, Sharp||Ripe, Juicy||Overripe, rich|
|White wine flavours||Apple, Pear||Peach, Melon||Mango, pineapple|
|Red wine flavours||Red berry, Cherry||Dark berry, Plum||Fig, prune|
|Acidity||Crisp, Tangy||Integrated||Soft, Smooth|
|Overall Style||Elegant, subtle||Medium intensity||Bold|
Each year’s weather can be different and consequently has a big impact on the vintage outcome, hence creating great, good and poor vintages. It is possible for a cool vintage to create ripe tasting wines and vice-versa. So vintage matters, particularly if you prefer cool climate wines.
It is also possible to have ‘micro-climates’ within a larger climate type. In fact it can be argued every vineyard has its own micro-micro-climate of sorts.
Whilst there are signs in every wine that hint at the weather the grapes experienced during the growing season, it is also about when grapes are picked. Grapes that are picked when –
- less ripe tend to make wines taste sharper and crisper, particularly on the finish. If you like zesty fruit flavours then you’ll want to look for these wines which are often described as ‘elegant’ or ‘balanced’;
- riper tend to make wines taste sweeter. If you love wine with a rich fruity almost sweet tasting finish, a key indicator is to look for words like ‘ripe’ or ‘sweet tannins’.
Different wineries pick their grapes at different times. If picked earlier, it’s mainly because the winemaker is trying to balance getting the grape as sweet as possible without losing all the natural acidity.
Simon Hall, Winemaker for Simall Wines says “Most of my wines reflect the cool climate characteristics preferred by most of us. They aren’t as over-powering or rich as wines made from grapes grown in warm and hot climates. As I make my wines to possess an acid structure and finish that works well for a range of dishes I like to describe them as balanced, where the many elements are in harmony. That’s the reason I fell in love with cool climate grapes.”