cool-climate-wines

By Rebecca Sterry

What are cool climate wines? That’s a good question! Here at Verwood Estate, we are well versed in the ins and outs of cool climate wines. We’ve created this guide to give our loyal customers an insight into what makes a cool climate wine.  

In this article we will be discussing what the cool climate wines definition is and the cool climate wines Australia offering; focussing on how a cool climate wine differs in taste from a warm climate wine, aromas, and alcohol content. 

What Is the Importance in Climate When Growing Wine Grapes?

Climate is one of the factors winemakers must take into consideration when producing wine. If a climate is too warm, there is the potential risk that the grapes will ripen too early, causing rapid development of sugars, rapid loss of acids and high pH levels. Because of this, it can affect the overall taste of the wine regarding sweetness and acidity from the pH levels. Generally, higher pH levels in a wine will lower the acidity, though higher pH wines can oxidise at a higher rate and therefore result in not aging as well. 

Climates that are cool allow the grapes to ripen at a slower, more natural rate. The longer the grapes are ripened for will result in a sweeter and more crisp tasting wine. With the process of grape ripening being slower in the cooler climates, it creates better balances in the wine and allows for more aromas and flavours to develop. Cooler climates are known for being able to produce the best quality table wines, and it is believed that the lower temperatures in autumn are the sole reason for this. It is also why cooler climates can produce good vintage collections, as the pH levels are lower, it allows the vintage wine to mature well over time and gain body.

What Is the Cool Climate Wines Definition?

Cool climate wines are those that are grown from either a Southern or Northern property, which has an average grape growing temperature of below 19 degrees Celsius in the January or July months (whichever is applicable; January for cool climate wines Australia). 

Cool climate wines are typically better balanced in flavours and aromas with low to moderate alcohol content due to having concentrated exposure and overall cooler air temperatures. This means that the grapes in these regions have longer ripening periods in which the UV rays are able to penetrate the grape skins long enough to create supple tannins.

The grape growing temperature is often diurnal in cool climate regions, which is the degree range between a day’s highest and lowest temperatures. This enables the grapes to ripen fully and develop in flavour throughout the day, whilst being able to retain acid during the night which is what helps to create the well-balanced flavours found in cool climate wines. The cool climates wines’ grape growing temperature average is usually between 55-59 degrees Fahrenheit, of which they typically get around 850-1389 growing degree days.

What Are the Classic Characteristics of A Cool Climate Wine?

Cool climate wines, as previously mentioned, are usually lower in alcohol content due to there being less sugar (grapes ripening slower). They tend to have a higher acidity which creates that beautiful balance yet remain smooth and often have a lighter body. There are plenty of flavours that come through in cool climate wines, spice being one having the occasional floral, spice and herbaceous characters, though the flavours are usually quite subtle and soft meaning that these wines are very pleasant on the palate.

Are There Specific Types of Wine Grapes That Grow Better in Cool Climate Regions Than Others?

Yes. A common type of white grown in cool climates is Chardonnay which usually has flavours of peach, melon, and apple. As Verwood Estate Wines is in a cool climate region of the Southern Highlands in NSW, our Chardonnay has notes of peach, pears, with a citrus finish, reminiscent of a typical cool climate Chardonnay. Our Chardonnay is also un-oaked, so instead of the distinctive tastes of buttery, vanilla characteristics of an oaked Chardonnay, Verwood’s is more refreshing and lighter on the palate.

Other examples of cool climate white wines are Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling.

Are There Any Cool Climate Red Wines?

Cabernet Sauvignon is quite the versatile red grape variety that can be grown both in cool and warm climates, in which it acquires an array of diverse flavours depending on what climate it has been grown in. For a cool climate red wine, Cabernet Sauvignon produces rich flavours of dark fruits including plum, blackcurrants, blackberries and cherries, and notes of cedar or chocolate. 

Verwood Estate Wines was able to produce a Special Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon for 2019 that is a deep purple in colour, with bold flavours of black fruits and toasty notes such as red plum, blackcurrant, eucalyptus, and vanilla. It has been aged in French oak barrels for a year which helps create the soft and elegant tannins, remaining a smooth drink that is easy on the palate.

Other examples of cool climate red wines are Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

How Would A Cool Climate Wine Differ in Taste from A Warm Climate Wine?

A good example of a wine that is produced in both warm and cool climates is the Australian favourite Shiraz. A warm climate Shiraz will have higher sugar levels due to ripening quicker and a higher alcohol content, with flavours of ripe, juicy plums, black pepper, and rich chocolate. A cool climate Shiraz, on the other hand, has more subtle fruit flavours with spicy notes and may often taste of raspberry, liquorice, white pepper and/or capsicum, again being more of a lighter body and taste.

Where Are The Cool Climate Wines Australia Located?

There are many cool climate regions across Australia that produce cool climate wines. Here are some of the following in each state:

New South Wales

  • Southern Highlands
  • Orange 
  • Canberra
  • Hilltops
  • New England
  • Tumbarumba 

Victoria

  • Yarra Valley
  • King Valley
  • Alpines Valley
  • Mornington Peninsula
  • Grampians
  • Pyrenees

South Australia 

  • Eden Valley
  • Coonawarra
  • Adelaide Hills
  • Mount Benson

Western Australia

  • Great Southern

Queensland

  • Granite Belt

Tasmania (all of Tasmania is a cool climate region)

  • Piper’s River
  • Tamar Valley
  • Derwent Valley
  • Coal River Valley

Where Is Verwood Estate Wines Located?

Verwood Estate Wines is a family run vineyard in the Southern Highlands in New South Wales, considered a cool climate region with it being cool, moist, and slightly humid. Rainfall in the region is evenly distributed throughout the year, varying from moderate to heavy. Viti-cultural hazards in the Southern Highlands include frost as temperatures can often drop to freezing point during April. Here at Verwood, we experienced frosty temperatures In September 2020, meaning that some of the first growths on the vines were killed, in which we are now hoping for a second growth soon. You can read about the effects of Frost in another one of our blogs on the website called ‘Grape Frost Protection’ that informs you of the effects, as well as measures against frost in protecting grape vines. 

Other Viti-cultural hazards in the Southern Highlands region include ‘pests’ such as the resident kangaroos that live in the area. At Verwood, our manager Natalie protects and rescues animals, so instead of allowing the kangaroos to endanger themselves by farmers when they attempt to eat the grapes, the workers here at Verwood have been building high-kangaroo-proof fences in order to protect the fruit and allow the kangaroos to keep safe. This is also due to a lesson learned when in previous years, the kangaroos ate the majority of the Pinot Noir grapes meaning that there was not enough for a sole batch of Pinot Noir wine – instead Natalie decided to blend the Chardonnay with the Pinot Noir and thus created the successful Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir we have today.