Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Cool Climate Whites

I have a story about Cool Climate Whites. Once upon a time when it was time to pass my wine tasting exam to get the WSET Diploma in Wines and Spirits, the school presented me with the following exercise, in front of me, there were three wines, they didn’t tell me the grape variety, origin or vintage, I was supposed to taste them blind, write tasting notes about them, identify the grapes and origin of the wines and identify a common characteristic that all of them shared. The three whites were a Mosel Riesling, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and a basic Chablis... and you guessed it!  Their common denominator was that all three were Cool Climate Whites.  I knew this immediately, mostly because I love acidity (a giveaway for this category), and purity in wines… meaning little or no winemaking man intervention, another giveaway.

I love Cool Climate Wines, both white and reds. I always say that climate is a very important factor in viticulture, where matching grapes, soil and climate is like a good marriage. Certain grapes need more sun to properly mature and prefer mild or warm climates, and then we have other grapes, mostly whites, that do quite well with less sun. Now, remember that viticulture is only possible on certain latitudes in our planet, mostly between 30 -50º north and south from the equator. Now, less sun, and therefore less ripeness, less sugar, and less alcohol. Less alcohol means less body and at times less fruity flavors. Instead, you will get more acidity, more vibrancy and freshness, more green and mineral flavors and more elegance. You will also have more focus, precision, as the French say “pointu”. Of course, we always need to aim for the balance of all the elements in wines. Even in a cool climate wine, though acidity is normally the central element, there are other things that keep the wine together, among them, their ability to express the terroir and soils, such as the cases like Chablis or Mosel, (wines known for their minerality, wet stones aromas and flavors). 

I believe this is a wonderful category of wines to enjoy in the summer, most of them are light to medium bodied, with high acidity, balanced alcohol, and pure… so pure in the sense that  producers have chosen to feature the aromas and intrinsic characteristics of the grapes, instead of masking the wines with too much oak. 
This is a category that will match very well, with light summer dishes, vegetables, salads, light fish/ seafood or even on their own, like I love to enjoy them… chilled and seating on a balcony or patio overlooking the stars or my favorite TV show. I love drinking Sauvignon Blanc while on vacation on the beach… that is a sublime experience indeed! that I will resume once the pandemic is over!

Flavor profiles of whites from cool climates usually are all types of pears, apples, especially green apples, citrus (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange), peaches. Green herbs, fresh grass, green peppers, also stones, and other mineral flavors.

There are plenty of cool climate places in the world: Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace, Carneros, Russian River and Sonoma in California, Casablanca in Chile, most appellations in Germany and the UK, Austria, Rías Baixas & Txacoli in Spain. Oregon (especially appellations closer to the Pacific coast), New Zealand, appellations in the South Africa Coast, etc.  Most of these places are either too north so the coolness comes from their location, some are due to their high altitude (temperature goes down as we go high up) or the vineyards/areas are heavily influenced by cool sea breezes, (proximity to oceans and rivers).

Below are some examples of Cool Climate wines that I have tasted lately

1)Marlborough, New Zealand: sunny and influenced by cool sea breezes, Marlborough is a unique location to grow Sauvignon Blancs, like nowhere else on the planet. NZ Sauvignon Blancs are vibrant with piercing fruit intensity. 

Sunday Mountain Sauvignon Blanc 2019 $14.99
Medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc showing intense lime zest and passion fruit notes and beautiful zingy acidity.

Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2018 $19.99
Light bodied Sauvignon Blanc featuring fresh green grass and grapefruit notes, and lively yet well integrated acidity.

2)Mosel, Germany: Germany and the UK, are two countries located so far north, they are in the northern limit for viticulture. In wine terms we call these locations “marginal climates”, located at 50-55º latitude respectively, here it’s so cool, grapes have a hard time to mature, of course this is fast changing with global warming. Of the many cool climates spots, Mosel is one of my favorites, there is an elegance found here that can't be duplicated anywhere else, plus alcohol levels are low, allowing me to drink more wine… without having a headache.

Gunther Steinmetz Brauneberger Riesling 2017 $18.99
Dry and racy Riesling, featuring lemon peel, honey and flint notes, complex almost Alsatian in body. Superb!

Dr Hermann H Riesling 2018 $19.99
Delicious off dry white, featuring vibrant acidity, lemon and petrol notes and a light body with only 10 % alcohol. Ideal with spicy foods.

3)Robertson Valley, South Africa, though summers are dry and sunny here, the vineyards are cooled down by the Breede river breezes and also by the Agulhas coast influences. The Chardonnay grapes used in this wine grow on limestone soils, similar to those found Burgundy. This wine was aged on its lees for 4 months.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2019 $19.99
A crisp full bodied Chardonnay, full of yellow and green apple notes. Creamy mouthfeel and a touch of minerality rounds up the persistent finish. 
So, there you have it! What wines are you enjoying this summer? Tell me on Instagram @silvinalawinaUntil next one, cheers! Silvina

#coolclimatewines #coolwines #whitewines #thoughtsoflawina

A special thanks to Broadbent Selections and HB Merchants for these wonderful samples.