Mar 24, 2020
High altitude wines are often discussed in the wine world, but what REALLY defines high altitude? There are a lot of features that would make a region qualify but the keys to determining “high elevation” are latitude and altitude and their cross section. At lower latitudes, elevations are way higher than at higher latitudes. Places at elevation share characteristics like cool nighttime temperatures, dryness (no mold or disease), later harvest dates, a good amount of wind, and higher levels of UV radiation.
Among other things, we discuss this study (BMC Plant Biol. 2014; 14: 183. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4099137/) which discusses the genetic adaptation and metabolic changes that happen in high altitude grapes.
Source: Catena Zapata, Adrianna Vineyard -- Mendoza, Argentina
The upshot: thicker skins that protect against the heat of the day and the cool of the night produce wines with greater body, flavor and aromatics. Wines can be lower or higher in alcohol depending on the latitude, but the similarity of these grapes is that they taste like fresh, newly picked fruit becuase of the fresh acidity retained because of cooler temperatures at night, wind, and the long growing season.
We mention some examples of these vineyard areas. In Europe, we mention:
In the New World
After some discussion, we conclude that “higher” does not automatically mean “better” and that although altitude is short hand for a fresh wine, unless it’s on a slope and at elevation, you can’t always rely on that heuristic!
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