High-Altitude Wines

Wines produced from mountain-grown grapes are the result of a special magic that occurs between soil and sky.

October 2, 2015

By DJ Kearney

Mountains impose unique conditions for winegrowing, and like the term “cool-climate,” “altitude” is a new buzzword in the world of wine.

Mountain vineyards tend to be rugged and exposed, often with thin, nutrient-deficient soils that cause vines to struggle. But in wine, a little hardship can be a very good thing. Stress forces vines to send their roots deeper, producing fewer bunches of grapes with smaller berries that deliver greater concentration of flavour. Altitude also brings amplified sunlight intensity for more ripening energy, and thicker skins with more colour and tannins. The result is a more mature fruit with greater complexity.

Slopes, too, provide an advantage to grape growing that the ancients noticed millenniums ago: both air and water flow down slopes, keeping roots well drained (which is essential) while down-draft breezes cool the vines. In hot regions like Argentina, nighttime baths of fresh air keep acids bright and put the brakes on premature ripening.

Growers in Argentina, Australia, and Sicily are increasingly seeking the cooling effects of high-altitude vineyards to sharpen acids and intensify fruit. Here are four lovely examples of their efforts, all imbued with the special magic of the mountains.

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