Chapter 4

Vineyard Site Selection


Grapevines are some of the oldest cultivated plants and have been historically associated with Mediterranean climates (e.g., Italy). Today, however, grapevines for wine production are grown in many types of climates: Mediterranean, marine west coast (e.g., Oregon), humid subtropical (e.g., eastern Australia), and semi-arid continental climates (e.g., eastern Washington state). Climate is one part of the continuum that includes the physical landscape influences of soil and terrain, which in combination largely determine the grape variety that can be grown in a given region. Once grape variety and site characteristics are considered, the remaining production practices and wine making techniques, which include regional associations and cultural traditions, result in the defining wine style a region produces.

Classification of Climates

The macroclimate refers to the prevailing climate of a large geographic region such as Napa valley in California or Sauternes and Champagne regions in France. Mesoclimate describes the climate of a small area, typically an individual vineyard or hillside. The vineyard mesoclimate is influenced by topography, the compass orientation (aspect), the degree of inclination (slope), barriers to air movement, and, to a lesser extent, the nature of ground cover, soil type, and soil moisture. At the meso-scale, topography, elevation or proximity to water of an area is important as it superimposes local effects on the general macro-climate. The microclimate of a vineyard is the climate from the soil upward into the vine canopy, and it plays a significant role in wine quality.

Large Bodies of Water Influence on Climate

Large bodies of water can moderate temperature effects on surrounding areas. Such bodies of water have a large heat storage capability that can extend the growing season as well as minimize mid-winter temperatures enough to prevent vine damage.

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