In the simplest of terms, think about climate in hot versus cold. You can do this fairly easily by thinking of the world map in your head and how close or far away a region is to the equator. If it’s quite far, you’ll know its cold (i.e. Canada, Germany, Champagne in the Northern Hemisphere, or New Zealand, Patagonia, Tasmania in the Southern Hemisphere). And if you don’t have a good atlas in your head or don’t know where a region is – Google is thing these days.
Most winemaking will take place between 30-50 N or S Latitude. If outside of those extremes it’s due to regional factors like mountains or moderating breezes. That’s another article though. We’re just talking about grape growing temperatures here.
Warmer Climates #
In warmer climates the grapes will be more ripe. Riper grapes will have more sugar. Sugar increases body in wine, because yeast eats sugar the wine will thereby have more alcohol (when making dry wines with no residual sugar) which is also associated with a heavier body.
What do we mean by riper fruit? Instead of tart green apple you may taste more ripe green apple, or ripe pear, perhaps even stone fruits.
Cooler Climates #
In cooler climates, the grapes have more acidity, thereby will be lighter in body, slightly lower alcohol, and have more tart fruits (green apple, tart pear, lemon, and lime).
Some Examples #
Riesling is a great example of this – within Germany you’ll find these cool climate styles in the Mosel, and riper fuller styles in the Rheinhessen. Check out this wine review for more info!
Chardonnay is another great example. The cool climate of Chablis versus the hot climate of California. In cooler climates, because the grapes are lighter bodied, if new oak is used it will cover up the great aromatics or simpler profiles of the wines. Whereas in hot climates, oak is more widely used to provide a bit more structure that’s lost as acidity lowers. The spicy notes of oak also nicely contrast the ripeness of fruits.
Pinot Noirs and Cabernet Sauvignon are also great examples. Cool climate Cabernet Sauvignon will have more herbaceous and vegetal notes (like green bell pepper) whereas warmer climates will be more jammy fruits.