In addition to geographic location, unique local climatic conditions govern which grapes will perform best. Wine educators, as outlined in , refer to several macroclimates.
Maritime climates usually lie near large bodies of water with relatively narrow annual temperature ranges, producing warm summers, moderate winters, higher than average rain and a relatively long growing season. For example, the Bordeaux maritime environment produces full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot-Cabernet Franc blends, displaying good acidity balanced with fruit, minerality and earthy qualities with moderate alcohol levels.
Continental climates represent another end of the spectrum—inland areas with cold winters, hot summers, little rain and a short growing season. An example is France’s Burgundy region, where the cool-climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes thrive. Farmers often ensure proper ripening by positioning vines to maximize sunlight exposure and planting them on mountainsides where altitudes mitigate heat—such as in Germany’s Mosel region and Argentina’s Mendoza region.
Mediterranean climates host dry, warm summers and wetter, moderate winters suited for heat-tolerant grapes that retain acidity. Examples include areas of Northern California, such as Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and parts of Chile, which produce very ripe, fruity Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines that generally contain higher than average alcohol levels. Similarly, vineyards in southern France’s Rhône region benefit from relatively hot summers to make wines composed of warm climate producers: Grenache and Syrah grapes.
Despite location, every region comes with weather-related challenges. Spring frosts and hail can damage vines early and affect fruit development, while various pests, from insects to birds, diminish yields. Strong winds also can damage vines, although breezes offer important benefits in many areas. Excessive rain after fruit formation may dilute the grapes, whereas dry weather in spring may prompt irrigation. Hence, while Mother Nature may be the grape farmer’s biggest collaborator, she also demands the farmer’s constant attention to manage her unpredictable moods.