The type of grape used to make wine has a lot to do with the region it’s from. It also has to do with where it can be grown. Some grapes are able to grow in multiple regions because those regions have similar climates. Each grape comes out differently in the final product leading to greater interest and demand in certain types. If a grape can only be grown in a certain region that will limit supply, increasing the price and exclusivity of that varietal.
Climate is the most important factor in grape production. The type of soil matters and so does the temperature during the day and night. Despite having different climates, Napa Valley and the Bordeaux region of France are both able to produce Cabernet Sauvignon.
Cool or Warm
Cool and warm climates can support grape production but will provide different tastes. Regions with a cool climate will typically produce a lower alcohol content and fruitier notes. Warmer regions are more likely to produce bolder, darker, fuller, and higher alcohol content wines.
Wine region climates can be classified using the the Koppen system which includes:
- Mild mid-latitude
- Severe mid-latitude
Those groups take into temperature and precipitation of a region and are even further subdivided but we’re not here for a science lesson. It’s commonly known that the Mediterranean region is very good for cultivating wine. Think Italy, Spain, and parts of France. The California coast and Bay Area falls under the same climate category is remarkably similar to the Mediterranean region. These are both mild mid-latitude climates. Some other suitable climates types include:
- Marine west coast climate (Pacific Northwest)
- Humid subtropical (eastern Australia, eastern United States, Uruguay)
- Maritime temperate (Bordeaux of France)
In Nature Climate Change, the journal, a study was published in 2016 suggesting that a warmer global climate will lead to better production of wine.
Increased global temperatures in recent decades have given regions that historically have not been successful at growing grapes the ability to produce grapes. Scandinavia has started to produce some wine although it’s not yet up to par of other regions and certainly doesn’t have the prestige. Some of these newer regions, especially Scandinavia, are still prone to the risk of losing grapes due to freezing temperatures and other weather risks that aren’t found in traditional climates.
Grapes need light to grow. Just like any other plant or crop grapes need solar energy. This energy is responsible for the alcohol content and the development of sugar in the grapes. Without enough sun, grapes will not be able to grow properly. Areas too far north and too far south don’t get enough sunlight throughout the year to produce quality grapes.
Right Temperature Conditions
Temperature is important for the grapes to ripen and achieve proper quality. Growing seasons vary but will typically last about 170-190 days. Grapes do best in a region in which the warmest month is in the mid-60s and the coldest month doesn’t get below freezing.
Any region that is too hot (Arizona, Texas) or too cold (Midwest, Russia, anywhere it snows) will be too harsh for grapes to grow.
Precipitation can affect grape growth too. Not enough and a grape, like any other fruit or plant, will not be able to grow. Too wet and it damages the grapes but even in an area like the Pacific Northwest that is notorious for rain, grapes can grow efficiently.