When it comes to wine, the most important factor is the grapes. Grapes provide all the unique flavor and aroma notes that bring character to our favorite wines. Many factors contribute to the overall taste of grapes but one of the most crucial is the climate. Climatic conditions have a profound effect on grapes and the same grape can taste entirely different depending on whether it was grown in a warm or cool climate.
In wine production, there are two agreed upon climate types: warm and cold.
With regards to wine growing, the term “warm climate” refers to regions where the temperature remains fairly consistent and the change in seasons is gradual rather than sudden. Wines growing in warm climates are given plenty of time to ripen fully. As a result, these wines have more pronounced fruit flavors and are usually full-bodied. Conversely, wines produced in warm climates tend to lack acidity and can be overpowering.
Argentina, Australia, South Africa, and certain Greek islands are considered warm climate growing regions, as are Central and southern France, Spain, Portugal, and Italy. In terms of the United States, California is the only warm climate region.
“Cool climate” is a bit of an inaccurate term in this case. These regions are not cool all year round; instead, the term refers to areas where the cool weather arrives quickly as opposed to a gradual process. These regions also have lower average temperatures than warm climate growing regions. Grapes grown in cooler climates tend to ripen slower than those in warm climates. As a result, wines from cool climate regions tend to have a high acidity, strong spicy notes, and less body.
There are several cool climate growing regions. Countries such as Austria, Chile, Hungary, Germany, and New Zealand are all considered cool climate regions. Similarly, northern France, Greece, and Italy are all technically cool climate regions. Finally, cool climate regions in the United States include New York, Oregon, and Washington State.
Growing wine grapes in cool climates is challenging and often results in smaller yields than in warm regions. As a result, certain cool climate wines like Pinot Noir command a higher price point than wines produced elsewhere.