To enhance your wine tasting experience, we are committed to bringing you interesting information on different aspects of wine production and tasting. In Microclimates 101 – Part 1, I introduced three vineyard climate terms: Macro-, meso-, and microclimate. When casual wine tasters say microclimate, they generally mean a vineyard’s mesoclimate. The true microclimate is the very tiny area from the soil up to the canopy of the vine plant, and optimizing this is a complex science.
Vineyard managers are interested in several specific things related to microclimate, including sunlight, atmosphere, plant and soil data. Of course, their goals are to create great wines that consumers will buy and enjoy. As a practical matter, benefits from good microclimate management include: higher quality yield, accurate heat/frost prediction for best response time, and optimized use of water and pesticides.
Regarding sun and temperature, good sun increases sugars and decreases acid. Too much sun burns vines. Conversely, too little sun encourages bacterial and fungal growth. A good cold winter, however, is ideal for killing bad pests and bacteria. Sunny days and chilly nights are ideal.
Too much rain causes grapes to swell, dilutes juice flavors, and causes rotting both above and below ground. Precise watering is critical. Many wineries give vines only a fraction of water needed, so roots are forced far underground, where they withstand drought conditions, and tap deep mineral reserves.
A laissez-faire approach to vineyard management may suffice for the casual small vintner. But today’s wine industry is hugely competitive. High-tech vineyard management gadgetry available would make James Bond’s “Q” proud (see Microclimate Monitoring Systems).
We hope that this glimpse into microclimate management enhances your appreciation and enjoyment of wine! Cheers!