Grapes for a Hot New World | Part II

Languedoc Wine Country | Courtesy

In Part I of “Grapes for a Hot New World,” I began an exploration of which grapes and wines will rise to greater quality, fame and fortune with the spike in mercury. This was prompted by a series of record heat years in the past few decades and predictions of what changes will benefit moving forward.

Read Part I. Click on Wine Column under the Local Flavor tab.

In this part, I will introduce a couple more reds. In addition, I will take on a more difficult task of identifying white wine grapes that will likely move up the wine ladder as temperatures rise. This is a more difficult task because the calling card of white wines is the retention of freshness and delicate molecules that can disappear with too much heat.

White Rhône blend from Paso Robles. | Courtesy Calcareous Vineyard

For the reds, let’s take a trip to Southern Italy where we find Primitivo in Puglia and other regions. By the way, the same prediction goes for Primitivo’s clonal-cousin Zinfandel. The second heat lover is Nero d’Avola, which typically hails from Sicily. Primitivo is usually an earthier and dryer style of Zinfandel and offers a more bramble style of dark fruits. Nero d’Avola is a chocolate-covered-cherry delight of a wine that retains its acids better than most reds. This creates a delightful combination of deliciousness and freshness even grown in hot, arid climates.

These and the examples in Part I are exactly the types of reds that other parts of the world will be looking to grow as the weathers heat up. They are also screaming bargains; you’d be hard pressed to spend a double sawbuck on a bottle. Since these tend to be unfamiliar to most of the world, I highly recommend asking your local wine-shop guru for suggestions.

On the white side, look to the south of France to Languedoc, Roussillon and the southern Rhône where Rousanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, Clairette and Bourbolenc thrive. The key to these grapes expanding their realm is that they retain their acid and aromatic molecules even in extremely hot growing conditions. They are also often blended together in various combinations and create complex symphonies of aromas and flavors that harmonize like a barbershop quartet.

For value-priced current examples of these solo or as a tribe, look to the aforementioned Languedoc/Roussillon where there are hundreds of producers with offerings around $10. Many of the producers have had their fruit sources for decades or more and their Mediterranean climate is quite consistent. Once you find a favorite, you will have new go-to house whites that will impress all. Another hotbed — pardon the pun — for these wines is Paso Robles where producers have similar conditions and commitment to these beauties. Like I recommended for the above reds, ask your local wine guru for his or her suggestions.