Have you heard of cool climate (high altitude) wines, seen them on shelf or on a wine list and thought...'what are they?' Well many wine drinkers are searching for interesting wines, either different styles, varietals or regions and cool climate, high altitude wines definitely fall into that bracket.
The best way to describe the difference in cool climate wines is to explain the impact of the climate on the fruit and the resulting flavour profile of these wines.
Vineyards that are either south of latitude by 37.5 degrees South or north of latitude of 37.5 degrees and has an average summer temperature below 19.5 degrees OR a vineyard which sits above 400m in altitude.
These vineyards are exposed to concentrated sunlight and cooler air temperatures which allow for longer ripening periods producing better balanced wines with moderate alcohol levels. The lower temperatures and higher solar radiation at these various altitudes make for more concentrated flavours in the wines as UV rays are better able to penetrate the skins of the grapes and ripen the pips producing supple tannins.
Aromas and flavours in cool climate wines are complex and intense with the natural acidity bringing brightness and freshness. Cool climate wines are also better suited to match a wide range of foods due to medium bodied flavour profile which compliments the food rather than overhwelm it.
Some grape varieties are better suited to high altitude vineyards than others. White varieties such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio tend to be more delicate with crisp acidity, lighter flavour body and typically shown bright fruit flavours.
Red varieties such as Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon adn Pinot Noir tend to be well balanced, good length of flavour and generous typical fruit characteristics of the variety.