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What is a Cool Climate Wine?

A commonly held sort-of-misconception about wine is that you need baking hot weather to make a good one. Everyone knows that you can’t ripen grapes well here in the UK after all, right? Well, wrong. To a certain extent. If you’re talking about the sort of sweet, juicy grapes we all like to snack on, then fair enough. But wine is a whole other matter entirely, because the grapes needed to make some of the best quality wines in the world require qualities that you simply can’t get in baking hot temperatures. You might have heard about cool climate wine, but this doesn’t mean the grapes used have been grown in the Arctic Circle. As with most things to do with wine, there is no simple answer, but we’re going to give it a go…

The Importance of Acidity

Generally speaking, a good wine has to have a balance of body, flavour and acidity. Although the word itself doesn’t exactly conjure up a pleasant taste, a wine without acidity can turn into a flabby mess. Making sure a wine has the right amount of acidity doesn’t mean physically adding it in the production process. You need the right sort of weather to ensure the grapes retain that sharpness and this means cooler conditions. Yes, sunshine is important for the grapes to ripen, but strong winds, higher altitudes and therefore cooler temperatures at night helps those grapes keep the acidity they so desperately need.

There are certain types of wine that are not only aided by cooler climates in this respect, but reply on them completely. Chablis is one such example, but probably the most famous is Champagne. This quality region is one of the coolest (literally and figuratively) in the world and it’s not just the ageing process that give its famous sparkling wines their unique flavour. Champagne (indeed, any top quality sparkling wine) always needs to be made from grapes with high levels of acidity and it’s only cooler climates that can provide this to a sufficient level.

Cool Climate Wine Can be Found in Hot Countries

Talking of sparkling wine, we’re getting rather good at making it here is the UK.  It’s no coincidence that our top growing spots can be found on the same chalky soils as the Champagne region in France. The Chardonnay grapes that make up the Hattingley Blanc de Blancs are one such example, being grown in the very much cool climate Hampshire. But whereas it’s fair to say that we certainly have our colder days, you can also find cool climate regions in countries you wouldn’t necessarily describe as cold.

The most obvious example of this is Australia. It does have its cooler regions too, the most obvious of which is Tasmania, a place that has developed a good reputation for sparkling wine and Pinot Noir in recent years (Pinot Noir being another grape that needs cooler growing conditions to thrive), but moving north, states which many consider warm at the very least, contain vineyards with mesoclimates that push them into cooler territories. The Architect Chardonnay from Philip Shaw is made from grapes grown in a high altitude vineyard in the Orange region in New South Wales, meaning that they retain that essential acidity whilst the wine offers some classic Australian Chardonnay flavours (think baked peach and pineapple) to remind you of its sun-kissed origins.

Most wines need some sort of cooler influence in order to shine, but specific cool climate wines are the sort that tend to leave a mark – think the first time you tried a superb Pinot Noir, vintage Champagne or even an amazing English sparkling wine. For all of these, we not only have to thank those skilled winemakers but also that cooler weather can make or break a bottle.


By: Anna

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