Warm climate, cool climate… what does it mean (and why does it matter)?

Published by Tamara Harrison - 15th Mar 2022

You’ll often hear us refer to climate when we talk about wine, and with good reason.

It’s one of the biggest influences on the way a wine tastes and smells.

Different climates affect the growing grapes in different ways, giving them a whole range of characteristics. Australia is home to 65 wine-growing regions, and the climate of each is unique, right down to a vineyard’s position and the conditions for that year.

In this instance, I’m looking at climate from a very high level: warm versus cool.

Most varietals have a sweet spot for certain conditions.

Take Riesling or Pinot Noir — they’re fussy creatures and only really do well in a cool climate.

One exception would be our Aussie staple, Shiraz. It can be successfully grown in many regions, which results in very different expressions. Leighton Joy’s Pyrenees Shiraz (from cool climate VIC) is a different experience to, say, Caroline Dunn’s Barossa Shiraz (from warm climate SA).

So what defines a warm or cool climate?

Warm Climate Vineyard – Barossa Valley, SA

Warm climate refers to vineyards exposed to a lot of sun and steady, warm temperatures. They produce grapes that ripen quickly — giving them buckets of fruit sugar and big flavours.

What this means for the wine in your glass
More plush, dark, jammy fruit flavours like plum, blackberry and blueberry; higher alcohol content and less acidity. Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are typical warm climate wines in Australia (although not necessarily in other countries).

A few of the Naked winemakers making warm climate wines

Cool Climate Vineyard – Tamar Valley, TAS

Cool climate refers to vineyards that still enjoy sun and heat, but the temperatures plummet at night and towards harvest time. This means the grapes take longer to ripen, locking in more fruit acid. The cool influence could be from being close to the coast (Margaret River, WA), at high altitude (Orange, NSW) or southerly latitudes (Tasmania).
What this means for the wine in your glass
More acidity, subtle fruit flavours and spicy, floral, and herby characters; less alcohol and lighter in body (weight). Riesling and Pinot Noir are typical cool climate wines.

A few of the Naked winemakers making cool climate wines

Are you seeing a pattern to your tastes already?

Neither is better than the other — it’s all down to personal preference. I hope this little nugget of information can help you find more of the type of wines you like!