The Effect of Wine Regions and Weather Patterns
You may have learned that differences in vintage can change the taste of a wine due to the year-to-year changes in weather conditions. But, in order for vintage reports to be meaningful, you must first know what the ideal harvesting conditions of each region should be.
Grapes are only harvested during the time of year appropriate for that region. Our North American vineyards, mostly located in California, are harvested in the late summer and early fall months. From the Australian vineyards, however, ripening conditions occur in the later months of the year, and harvesting can begin as early as January. Because Australia is safely below the equator, the southern exposure causes grapes to ripen more quickly. In both regions, white varietals are always picked first, with reds following several weeks or sometimes months later.
Now, let's consider the weather patterns. In Napa Valley, a winter that is cool and moist is preferred, followed by a dryer spring season. During the summer, winemakers hope for lower temperatures through temperate days and cool nights. In Australia, where conditions are generally much warmer, a healthy amount of rainfall is desired in the late months of the year to break the typical Aussie summer drought. However, even if Mother Nature does not grant this reprieve, our Australian vineyards are equipped with top-notch irrigation tools and techniques to maximize the number of perfect grapes, even following a dry spell.
When it comes to the impact of weather, there is one constant that any winemaker would desire regardless of region: a cloudless sky on the days of the harvest! A few sprinkles can be fine, but downpours can cause the freshly picked grapes to rot or become diluted. Thick-skinned varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, are less penetrable, but others, like Zinfandels, aren't so lucky. Experienced winemakers will keep a very close eye on the skies and will never risk harvesting on a day when rain may be an issue.