Questions surround this climatic definition
AS I POURED a glass of the 2008 Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir to take the edge off last Sunday’s mustard crusted lamb racks (which, I admit, were worthy of a MasterChef elimination), I pondered the “cool climate” regionality claimed by the winery.
Is the Yarra Valley, 50km north-east of Melbourne, really a cool climate?
Definitions as to what is a “cool climate” exist but often are loosely applied. The International Cool Climate Wine Show defines a cool climate wine as one coming from a vineyard south of latitude 37.5 degrees south or north of that latitude where the region has an average January or July (depending upon hemisphere) temperature below 19 degrees or where the vineyard is above 800m in altitude.
On the other hand, other northern hemisphere definitions categorise cool climates by the average temperature of the seven months of the growing season. This if often referred to as “growing season temperature” or “GST”.
By this definition, in order to be a cool climate, the region has to have an average temperature between 13 and 15 degrees over that seven-month growing period.
Tasmania has a GST of about 14.4 degrees and Central Otago 14.8 degrees. The definition is intended to capture vineyards where the vigneron faces the struggles of slow-ripening fruit and risk of vine damage in winter.
It is often said that cool conditions are challenging but result in better-quality wines through the retention of acid, lower alcohol levels and better minerality.
But if you find it a little confusing as to whether a region is in fact “cool climate”, you’re not alone. Among the best cool climates in the world, there are significant climatic variations.
Take Mosel in Germany, for example. The region produces arguably the world’s best rieslings and it has an average midsummer temperature of 19 degrees and an average midwinter maximum of one degree – now that is cold.
By way of comparison, Stanthorpe experiences an average midsummer temperature of 27.4 degrees and midwinter temperature of 14.8 degrees.
So the Yarra Valley, with a latitude of 37.7 degrees and an altitude well below 800m, perhaps doesn’t make the cool climate definition.
But to be honest, as I pour a second glass of the Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir, I couldn’t care less. It’s a delightful but gamy style of pinot, with stewed plums on the nose and ample spicy characters to support a “cherrification” across the palate. There are ample fine tannins and the finish has the poise and grace of an Olympic gymnast.
The region may only be “coolish” by world standards but it is undoubtedly one of our better pinot-producing regions. Travis is a Sunshine Coast businessman with a passion for food and wine.
THE YARRA VALLET IS CONSIDERED A COLD CLIMATE – BUT IS IT REALLY?
DEGREES OF DELIGHT: Coldstream Hills vineyard Rolling Hills, which produces a wonderful pinot noir.