How Does A Vineyard’s Region Affect A Wine?

Great wines start with great grapes from great places. With substandard raw ingredients, there is no way to produce anything other than a substandard wine. This being the case, there are a few specific conditions, which make grape growing impeccable. Let’s take a look at these conditions and what other influences different regions have on their wines.


Vineyards, more importantly the grapes in those vineyards, need a certain set of conditions to grow optimally. These conditions include a cool breeze off the ocean, infrequent rainfall, rocky soil for good draining, and plenty of sunshine. This is one of the reasons you will hear wine experts talking about a good vintage year due to the seasonal conditions, because ultimately, the body and taste of the wines are based on the conditions the grapes are grown in.

The combination of land, seasonal weather and soil used to produce wines, even has a French designation – terroir. Pronounced [tear-wah], this term is the origin of the word terrain. While you can have the same type of wine, Pinot Noir for example, from three different regions – New Zealand, Burgundy, and California – you can expect to have three different tastes due to the terrain in which the grapes grow.

Regional Differences

How did the community you grew up in shape and mold who you are today? Your appearance, accent, and palate were formed by your exposure to your community, or region, as it were. The same is true for grapes and wine. Each region has people with different techniques for growing grapes and producing wine, usually passed down from generation to generation.

Take, for instance, Champagne. This sparkling beverage was originally produced in Champagne, France with special grapes and innovative techniques. The only true “Champagne” is from this region in France. Any other bubbly wine is actually Sparkling Wine and must be labeled so. This is a case where a community took such pride in protecting the land and developing the traditions used in their specific form of wine making, that no other sparkling wine may be labeled Champagne.

Proud Regions

Since each region has climate differences and commitments to tradition, it’s easy to study the grapes and growing conditions for each region to make categorizations about exactly what regions can produce certain types of wine.

An example is Port from Portugal, where the growers have been producing fortified vineyards for centuries. The region Port comes from, in Douro, has extremely rocky soil with desert like conditions. Port is only made by humans stomping the grapes, which adds to the uniqueness and allows only wine from that region to be called Port.

The regional impact on wines makes a big difference in how a wine tastes and feels. Knowing the conditions the grapes were grown in, how they were processed, and the time-honored traditions of the vintners, allow the consumer to know exactly what to expect with each type of wine. Know the region and know the wine!


Time To Try A New Wine

When we fall in love with a particular wine, we often are hesitant to try anything else. This is a pity, as this attitude closes the door to all sorts of new tastes and experiences. If you’re buying the same bottle of wine every time you shop – stop – look around – and consider trying something new and exciting.

Start by shopping lesser known regions. Many wine regions are becoming better known and have very nice wines at reasonable prices. Spain, Australia, Argentina and Chile are just a few that come to mind. If you always buy Italian or French, take a stroll over to these other regions and indulge in what could be a very pleasant surprise. Don’t forget the lesser known American wine regions, as well. Many fine wines are being produced outside of California!

Expand your horizon by trying wine from areas just beyond a well known wine growing region. Instead of an expensive Pomerol in Bordeaux, try Lalande-de-Pomerol. This wine is actually made from the same grape (Merlot) but grown just outside the region and is typically available at a much lower price.

Look for the “second labels” of more established wineries. These are quality wines sold under a different label at a lower price, a practice quite common in Bordeaux and gaining popularity in California. This is similar to a major department store having their own brand of clothing. The same manufacturers produce them but display a store-brand label and sell at a lower price.

Sometimes palates change, and can do so quite dramatically. A person who normally loves the burly red wines, may start enjoying the lighter, crisper white wines. This would be a good time to reassess your tastes and try totally new wines of all varieties.

Red or White

This is the basic decision that most people make. Choosing red or white wine is pretty much the starting point when looking for new wines for your particular taste. While both wines can offer a “full bodied” taste, it is important to understand the basic differences between red and white wines. Red wines usually have more of a dark fruit taste. These are fruits such as strawberries, cherries, blueberries and even a cranberry flavor component.

White wines have a higher acidity level, rightly so as they usually embody the citrus flavors of lemon, lime and grapefruit. These wines are usually more tropical in their bouquet and have a much lighter persona to them. The white wines also come with a little more “oak” flavor, as they tend to pick up the flavor of the barrel they were aged in.

Dry or Sweet

Dry and sweet are two categories of “mouth feel.” The drier the wine, the more tannin it has in it, usually. These tannic blends are usually a bit bitter at first, but are cut by the acidity of the wine, or are mellowed by the alcohol. Wines with a higher tannin content are better when left to sit and age, as the tannins will begin to fade after a while, becoming incorporated into the wine.

Sweet wines, on the other hand, can have a bit more sugar aspect to them. These wines leave the palate wet and usually ready for food. Higher sugar content will give the “nose” of the wine a bit more of a bite, but typically balances out with the flavor of the fruits.

Hot or Cold – Alcohol

While it would seem these two designations are based on the temperature the wine is served, this is not the case for this discussion. Hot and cold wines refer to the alcohol content in the wine. Typically done by volumetric ratios, hot wines will have alcohol content above the 12.5% level. The cooler wines will be below this, even down into the 9% range.

If you are struggling trying to choose a new wine, start by making the basic decisions first about whether you want red or white, dry or sweet, and then hot or cold. Once you have those factors in mind, ask your local wine shop expert for suggestions. Take a chance on an unfamiliar wine and surprise your palate!