A lot depends on the weather

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A lot depends on the weather

Postby Daniel Paulson » Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:05 am

Hello All,
I live in Harrisonburg which is located in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley here in central Virginia. My wife and I enjoy visiting wineries in the area when we have some free time. I work in Charlottesville, which is an hour away on the other side of a sizeable mountain. I've noticed in the past few weeks that spring arrives a little earlier there. Flowering trees blossom sooner, mornings are warmer earlier, etc. There are vineyards located around both towns.

So, my question is this: How does an earlier spring affect the taste of wines made of opposite sides of a mountain? What differences should I look for? Does this even matter?

I'd like to learn more about the relationship between weather and wine. Can anyone suggest some good reading on the subject?

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Re: A lot depends on the weather

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Apr 16, 2006 4:45 am

Much will of course depend on the rest of the growing season. Early flowering can be good if it means that grapes get a chance to have long slow ripening then phenolic elegance will be achieved, but of course if it either gets cold again and kills them or if it is too hot too soon ripens them too quickly then the product will be less than elegant..

And variation according to grape variety/clone is also significant here.

Am sure others have more technical references for details..
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Re: A lot depends on the weather

Postby Hoke » Sun Apr 16, 2006 1:44 pm

Great question, Daniel.

First, what Rahsaan said.

But your question opens up all sorts of cascading questions, issues, and responses. Which is what makes it a great question: because it leads to so many other things.

A danger of early bud set (beyond what Rahsaan said already) is that you may still be getting those Spring showers, and too much water at this time can have some serious consequences. For instance, if you have an exceptionally long wet/cold Spring it could retard the shoot development in the early stages, which may have an effect later on in the season.

Plus, of course, with more moisture you always fun a chance of fungus mold proliferating, and that's never a good thing.

But it's so much more than just early flowering, Daniel. If you're attempting to compare different sides of the mountain (from a wine grower point of view), you have to consider the type of soil in each place (how porous, how good is the drainage, will the soild stay wet for long periods, will you have to irrigate), the prevailing winds and the force of those winds, the amount of moisture (or lack thereof; one side might get all the rain, the other might be in a rain shadow), the angle of the slope, which way the slope faces, the height of the slope, and the relative points of humidty at different places on the slope. How much sunlight does the slope get during the day? And what's the arc of sunlight on the slope during the day. Are there 'cold pockets' or 'hot pockets' in the vineyard?

And are the appropriate varieties planted in the right areas? (I have a friend who has a three acre vineyard up in the mountains. Because of the way the vineyard sits, they have a problem every year with the Merlot being susceptible to freezing, simply because of where it is. So they either have to avoid that place, or graft over another variety that can handle the cold better. Sometimes from one row to another will make a significant difference.)

You won't readily see it when you look at a vineyard, but if it is a good vineyard the grower has paid a lot of attention to selecting the right clone of a variety, as well as what rootstock it is planted on (different rootstocks have different vigor in different soils).

There's more....so much more. But for me that's part of what makes wine interesting, Daniel. I sure don't invest this much interest in Coca Cola or Kool-Aid. :^)
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Re: A lot depends on the weather

Postby Thomas » Sun Apr 16, 2006 2:59 pm


You've got two good answers--anything else will begin to get too technical.

I would say one thing that might seem like semantics but really isn't. In that reference to ripeness that Rahsaan made, maturity is a better way to refer to the point when each grape variety reaches that state to give it the potential to produce elegant and balanced wine.

Ripeness isn't always the exact description of maturity, especially in cooler growing climates. And, if an early spring is followed by a long growing season, ripeness could easily become over-ripeness, which creates problems of its own.

One more thing, nightime temperatures that dip drastically from daytime temps can often militate the effects of an early spring.
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