In recent years, South Europe has been grappling with scorching heatwaves that have left their mark on numerous aspects of daily life. But how does heat influences wine and the wine making process? Beyond the immediate health and infrastructure concerns, these extreme temperatures have also permeated an unexpected domain: the bottles of wine lining the shelves of supermarkets. You might have seen the recent news about the extreme heat in South Europe, but how does this influence wine? Let’s discover how extreme heat changes the winemaking process and subsequently explores how it influences the quality and characteristics of the wines available at your local grocery store.
The battle between terroir and climate
Wine is inherently linked to its place of origin, a concept known as terroir. The combination of soil, climate, and vineyard practices shapes the unique flavor profile and traits of each wine. In South Europe, vineyards have traditionally embraced the reliably warm and dry summers, as they contribute to the signature qualities of the wines produced, such as high alcohol contents, ripe fruit flavors, and desirable tannins. However, extreme heat disrupts this finely tuned balance.
Rising temperatures resulting in dropping acidity – another way heat influences wine
One of the most crucial impacts of extreme heat on wine grapes is the loss of acidity. As the temperature soars, the grapes mature more rapidly, causing the levels of malic acid, crucial for vibrancy and freshness, to plummet. Consequently, wines exhibit a lower level of acidity, altering their balance, texture, and ability to age gracefully. For the consumer, this means that the previously crisp and lively white wines may appear flat, lacking the zesty character enjoyed in cooler vintages.
Sunstroke by heat or increased alcohol levels?
The relationship between heat and sugar concentrations entwines with the alcohol levels in wine. Extreme heat accelerates the ripening process, leading to higher sugar accumulation in the grapes. While this may sound appealing, excessive sugar in wine can result in unbalanced flavors, flabby mouthfeel, and perceived sweetness, disguising the wine’s true nuances. Consequently, wines from heatwave-affected vintages tend to showcase robust alcohol levels, which can overpower delicate notes and hinder the beverage’s overall harmony. Another way how heat influences wine and the wine making process.
A winemakers take on extreme heat and how this influences their wines
South European winemakers are acutely aware of the challenges posed by escalating temperatures. This awareness has stimulated innovative approaches to mitigate the unfavorable effects of heatwaves. By implementing irrigation systems, providing shade through trellis arrangements, and adjusting vine training techniques, vintners strive to protect their grapevines against extreme heat stress. Moreover, some winemakers have also started exploring new grape varieties that are more resilient to warmer climates. These efforts aim to safeguard the quality of future vintages, even in the face of rising challenges posed by climate change.
Climate change influences everything about wine. But also how wine-makers and how the export runs towards the final customers. Learn more about wine and wine making with our qualitative courses thought by industry professionals. From wine makers to jury members of international awards. And, when you sign up for our wine-community, you will have the opportunity to meet the wine makers taste!