Pinot Noir and cool climate regions
Cool Climate Pinot Noir
There are many small batch producers out there making some quality and expressive Pinot Noir. It is not an easy grape to grow with its thin skins, the fact that it buds and ripens early, needs to grow in well-drained soil and the climate has to be cool, sometimes marginal where frost and hail can be a real threat like in Champagne.
Altitude and Water
Altitude and proximity to water are important in creating a cool climate region. In a river valley (Yarra Valley, Russian River Valley) the cooling influence of ocean fog, the shadow of the mountains also has an effect. At night the air rises from the ocean and cools the land (and grapes). Of course it is not just the region, terroir and affect from ocean, it is also the winemaker’s skill and technique that play a key role.
Altitude has an impact creating a cool climate. We all know it becomes cooler as the altitude rises, we can feel this when we climb mountains or when we go skiing/snowboarding. For every 100 metres higher in altitude, the temperature reduces by 0.65°C and the acidity in the grapes is higher. Planting on a hillside or mountain will mean more direct and concentrated sunlight. At altitude, there is also large differences in day and night temperatures. The huge temperature differences means the grapes ripen slowly (the drop in temperature is stopping the sugar production). There is a slower flavour and tannin development in the wines as a result of the cooler conditions.
Rockier soils will offer better drainage; important for wine growing and growing on the slopes means the vines have to dig deep and search for nutrients and water. The result is smaller berries (with more concentrated fruit) with less yield and better quality.
Cool climate means more time ripening producing complex layers and a range of flavours and aromas. The characteristics of Pinot Noir can include beetroot, blackberry, black cherry, cranberry, perfumed and as it ages; barnyard, dark chocolate, earthy, cigar box, clove, hay, nutty and vanilla. There is so much more we could talk about relating to the cool climate regions, the topography, altitude and winemaking styles so drop in and see us in the store! And find out about the Pinots that we stock and why we love them so much!