It’s Hip to be Cool!
Australian winelovers have fallen in love with cool climate wine styles and it seems we can’t get enough of their medium weight appeal. They’re so wonderfully food-friendly, balanced and downright delicious.
An overview of cool climate wines
So, what exactly defines a cool climate wine?
Technically, cool climate wines are made from grapes grown either: south of latitude 37.5 degrees south, or north of latitude 37.5 degrees north or from a property in the Southern or Northern hemisphere which has an average January/July (whichever is applicable) temperature below 19ºCelsius, as confirmed by the nearest Bureau of Meterology site, or vineyard site above 400m in altitude.
Typically, grapes grown in cool climate regions are exposed to concentrated sunlight and cooler air temperatures which allow for longer ripening periods producing better balanced wines with moderate alcohol levels. Lower temperatures and higher solar radiation produce more concentrated flavours as the UV rays are better able to penetrate the grape skins and ripen the pips producing supple tannins.
Another contributing influence is the large diurnal temperature which is the degree range between a day’s highest and lowest temperatures. This change in temperature allows for ripening and flavour development during the day and acid retention during the night. Aromas and flavours in cool climate wines are complex and intense with the natural acidity bringing brightness and freshness.
Shiraz is a great example of the different styles warm and cool climates produce. Warm climate Shiraz should taste of juicy ripe plums, rich chocolate and black pepper, while cool climate wines tend to be more restrained with fruit flavours leaning towards more subtle fruit and the accompanying flavours will be spicy, floral or herbaceous. A cool climate Shiraz may also taste of raspberry, liquorice, capsicum or white pepper.
Cool Climate Characters:
Balance: Cool climate wines have higher acidity, which translates to lovely balance.
Spice: Cooler climate wines often show spicy, floral, herbaceous characters.
Delicacy: Cool climate wines tend to be lighter in body.
Subtlety: Grapes take longer to ripen so the fruit flavours tend to be more subtle.
Lower alcohol: Cooler temperatures mean less sugar, so lower alcohol.
Cool Climate Wine Varietals Include:
Warm climate Chardonnay is generally full-flavoured, rich and powerful showing ripe, tropical and stonefruit characters. Cool climate Chardonnay is elegant, lean and finely structured with soft white peach, melon and green apple profiles. Look for these styles from Yarra Valley, Tumbarumba, Great Southern and Adelaide Hills.
Fantastically food-friendly and packed full of juicy stonefruit characters, Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same grape variety but made in two different wine styles. Pinot Gris is richer, fuller and plumper, while Pinot Grigio is fresh, zesty and racy. Cool climate regions such as King Valley, Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula produce wines with lemon, quince, yellow apple, pear and green melon characters.
Riesling is a late ripening aromatic white with high levels of acidity. Generally speaking, Australian Riesling is drier than German, Alsatian and New Zealand examples. It thrives in the cool climate regions of Clare Valley, Eden Valley, Great Southern and Tasmania and produces wines with flavours of lime, green apple, beeswax, and jasmine.
With its origins in Austria, Grüner Veltliner loves the cool climate regions like Adelaide Hills. It’s very similar to Riesling, but with just a little bit more richness and a distinctively peppery aroma. It delivers flavours of yellow apple, green pear, green bean and white pepper.
A German variety, Gewürztraminer grows in cool to moderate climate such as Adelaide Hills, New England and Tasmania. An aromatic white grape that is recognisable by its heady scent, it delivers flavours of rose petal, lychee, pineapple, grapefruit and guava.
Australian Sauvignon Blanc runs the gamut of flavour from herbal, grassy, sour citrus and gooseberry, to passionfruit and tropical characters. Structurally these wines can be light in body and crisp or made in a more textural, barrel fermented style. Being a grape that ripens early, Sauvignon Blanc needs a cool climate to thrive. That’s why it works so beautifully in the Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills and Orange. Intense aromatics and flavours of gooseberry, grapefruit and passionfruit develop when grown at high elevation above 750 metres.
Cabernet loves cool climate to moderate climates like Hilltops, Orange, and Coonawarra which produce elegant wines with fragrant black currant, dark berry, cedar, mint and plum characters.
Vibrant white pepper and blackberry fruit flavours are typical of cool climate Shiraz. It is medium bodied, spicy and floral with freshness from natural acidity. The richer styles of Shiraz come from lower elevations, whereas the spiciness is indicative of higher elevations. Look for these styles from Canberra, Hilltops, Adelaide Hills, north-west Victoria, Eden Valley, and Great Southern.
A very temperamental varietal, Pinot Noir thrives in cool climates regions only such as Tasmania, Yarra Valley, Adelaide Hills, Orange and Great Southern and Mornington Peninsula. Flavours include cranberry, cherry, raspberry, clove and leaf litter.
Australia’s Cool Climate Regions
NSW: Tumbarumba, Orange, Hilltops, Canberra, New England, and Southern Highlands.
VIC: Yarra Valley, King Valley, Alpines Valley, Mornington Peninsula, Macedon Ranges, Heathcote, Grampian and Pyrenees.
WA: Great Southern
SA: Eden Valley, Mount Benson, Adelaide Hills, Coonawarra,
QLD: Granite Belt
TAS: All of Tasmania’s wine regions are cool climate – Tamar Valley, Pipers River, Coal River Valley, Derwent Valley.