Warm Weather and Italian Wine Grapes – How Does the Climate Affect the Grape?

If you’ve been keeping track of the Xtrawine blog for a while, you probably know that we’ve written about climate change and the effects that weather can have on wine production.

Simply put, the temperature alters the grape in a number of ways. That’s not a problem if you have a consistent climate. If you know you’re always in a colder area, you can focus on growing grapes that thrive in that climate. And there are also grapes that thrive in warmer weather.

The problem comes when inconsistencies in climate cause production to go through turbulent periods

But we’ve written quite a lot about that in the past.

In this article, we’d like to approach the climate issue on a more general level. We’re going to take a look at what affects warm weather has on grapes. And in doing so, you may develop an understanding of why producers choose the grapes that they choose based on where they have their vineyards.

Let’s jump straight into the first effect…

Effect #1 – Faster Ripening

This shouldn’t really come as too much of a surprise to anybody who understands how plants generally work.

In addition to water, which plants primarily absorb through their roots, every plant needs the sun to live. In fact, they grow their leaves specifically to enable a process called photosynthesis. If plants drink water, photosynthesis is the process that they use to create “food” than enables them to grow faster and stronger.

You can already see where we’re going here.

If a location has warmer weather, that means it’s generally a safe bet that it also gets a lot of sun. And that means that the vines have an abundant “food” source.

The end result is that the grapes on those vines will ripen much more quickly than those grown in colder areas. You could almost liken it to somebody who overeats constantly getting fatter constantly. With so much food at their disposal, the vines find that their grapes fatten quicker too.

Of course, there is a caveat to this.

While plants need the sun to create their “food”, too much of the sun can damage the plant if it’s not balanced out with water.

This creates a challenge for producers in warmer climates. They often can’t rely on regular rain to provide water for their vines. As a result, they need to use complex irrigation techniques to ensure their vines get all of the water that they need.

Regardless, grapes grown in warmer climates generally ripen much faster than those grown in cooler climates.

Effect #2 – Lower Acidity

This faster ripening does come with a few trade-offs that have a direct effect on the wines that the producers make.

One of those trade-offs is that grapes grown in warmer climates will usually have much lower acidity than those grown in cooler climates. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the type of wine being produced. But generally, this means that wines from warmer climates have a smoother taste that isn’t as sharp as those of other wines.

Producers can do a number of things to counteract this loss of acidity. In fact, one of the reasons that so many producers blend grape types is so that they can redress these sorts of imbalances to create a wine that’s more enjoyable.

The role of acidity in the wine will also play a part.

In red wines, much of the profile comes from the wine’s tannins, rather than its acidity. As a result, a loss of natural acids doesn’t have as much of an effect here.

But in a white wine, acidity is a big part of the profile. As a result, it’s a real challenge that grow good white wine grapes in warmer weather. And the producers that do often have to take measures to ensure their wines have appropriate acidity.

Effect #3 – Higher Sugar Content

In a seeming effort to counterbalance the lower acidity, grapes grow in warmer climates also tend to have a much higher sugar content.

Again, this can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the type of wine being produced.

Sweet grapes are absolutely ideal for dessert wines, as well as being great for fortification into port and similar drinks. However, that sweetness isn’t going to play as well for wines that are consumed during dinner. In fact, the sweetness will often clash unfavourable with the savoury aspects of the food that you’re eating.

Producers can blend grapes together to reduce the level of sweetness and sugar in their wines. However, those who produce especially sweet grapes will usually focus on creating sweeter wines as a result.

Such wines also tend to have a higher alcohol content. This is especially the case if the producer ferments sweet grapes into a dry wine. In this situation, the sugar essentially turns into alcohol, which leads to a more full-bodied drink.

Whether that’s a good or bad thing again comes down to personal taste and the type of wine being produced.

Effect #4 – Darker Colouring

As you may have surmised from reading this article, red wine grapes tend to thrive in warmer weather and white wine grapes do better in cooler climates.

This isn’t a coincidence as the sun has a direct effect on the colouring of the grape.

A warmer climate generally produces a darker skin colouring for the grape. Again, this isn’t a hard and fast rule. There are some white wine grapes grown in warmer weather. But generally speaking, you’re going to get red wine grapes if you’re working in a warmer climate.

The Final Word

There you have it…

These are the effects that a warmer climate have on the grapes that go into your bottles of Italian wine.

Of course, the climate itself isn’t a good or a bad thing. As long as a producers grows the right types of grape in the climate, they’ll produce good wines.

It’s just interesting to see just how much an effect warmer weather can have.



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