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COOL CLIMATE AUSTRALIAN WINES
Whether your tipple is a crisp white, a smooth red or bubbles, Australian wines from cool climates can tantalise your taste buds. Australia’s diversity in climates lends to being able to produce excellent wines that use their local climate to their advantage to produce award winning drops.
Although temperature is the main aspect for determining the suitability for establishing a vineyard there are many other factors to take into consideration. The distance from water sources, the speed, temperature, direction, humidity and timing of the wind, evaporation from the land and transpiration from plants, cloud cover, rainfall patterns (particularly in ripening season) as well as altitude all affect viticulture.
In the wine industry cool climates have become synonymous with high quality. This isn’t necessarily true as with all wines you can get poor quality; however, you will find some of the best in cooler climates. Rumour has it; grapes from cooler climates increase the longevity of the bottle.
Wines from cooler climates tend to have a higher natural acidity. They are described as being elegant and more refined than those from warmer climates.
Cold…but not too cold
Vineyards in warm climates are defined by low acidity, higher alcohol percentages, being full bodied, along with sweet and high extract. Cooler climates present more of a challenge to the viticulturist as the right conditions are more difficult to create to produce exceptional wines.
If the climate is too cold the grapes simply won’t ripen. Therefore the cool climates we discuss when it comes to wine making is cool but just warm enough for the fruit to ripen before it starts getting really cold in autumn and winter. More specifically it corresponds with areas that have temperatures of 19°C or lower to enable the ripening of pinot gris, pinot noir, chardonnay, traminer, and sauvignon blanc. However, this makes semillon, merlot and cabernet very difficult to achieve and can only be grown in extraordinary sites. It is a possibility in areas such as Tasmania, the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, select areas of Mornington and even particular spots in the Yarra Valley.
What Defines a Cool Climate?
- South of latitude 37.5° C South, or North of latitude 37.5° C North
- From a vineyard in the Southern or Northern hemisphere which has an average temperature below 19°C calculated using the January and July temperatures. These readings are to be taken from the nearest Bureau of Meteorology site for accuracy.
- In a vineyard which is situated over 500m above sea level.
A perfect example of cool climate wines is the Macedon Ranges in Victoria. Situated roughly an hour northwest of Melbourne this is the coolest wine region on the mainland. It’s becoming popular for bubbles, chardonnay and pinot noir. If you venture just north of the Macedon Ranges you will find yourself in Heathcote which has become renowned for its shiraz.
Another ideal spot in Victoria is the Mornington Peninsula which has a distinctive maritime location. It’s positioning produces a special effect on wine’s produced here. The result is exceptional flavours with just the right balance of acidity. The region’s pinot noir and chardonnay are wines to get excited about. They are completely unique to the region in their tastes. Whilst these are the two varieties the Mornington Peninsula is famous for, excellent varieties such as pinot gris, pinot grigio, shiraz, amongst others are starting to gain popularity.
A collection of small boutique wineries define the area and winemakers put a lot of passion into creating distinct wines. They work with micro climates which are reflected through subtle differences in the wines.
As the coolest climate in Australia, Tasmania is known for its ‘true cool climate wines’. Tasmania has lots to offer with chardonnay, Riesling, gewürztraminer, pinot gris, sauvignon blanc and pinot noir. They also make exceptional sparkling wines.
Cool climate wine regions have to implement precise vineyard measures to achieve outstanding results. It’s not feasible to maintain consistency over a large area so you will find vineyards on a smaller scale here. Viticulturists in Northern Tasmania are very particular with their site selection and look for shelter from westerly winds.
It takes the right amount of sunshine combined with lower temperatures to achieve subtle, fragrant compounds. These wines have been described as having a certain finesse and elegance to them.
Winemakers in South Australia work with a variety of soil types, varying heights above sea level and cool ocean breezes. These factors have an impact on the wines produced and give them unique qualities. Just outside of Adelaide is one of the most well-known cool climate wine regions, the Adelaide Hills. There are over 60 wineries in the region where sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay do particularly well. The cooler sites specialise in sparkling wine which is pleasing on the palate.