For all of the words that are used in writing about a vineyard’s climate terroir, there are significant differences with each. If you don’t have the luxury of a viticulture class close by, or you’re just too busy to attend a class, here’s a good primer.
Vit 101 brought some interesting concepts to me, including that there just aren’t the microclimates that we hear and read about all the time. Climatologists recognize that there are four levels of climate that exist in vineyards, which is dependent on the size of the area that’s involved in defining what’s what.
I’ve added the image to the right, because it’s explained as a microclimate on rock located in intertidal zone in Sunrise-on-Sea, South Africa, to demonstrate that microclimates exist in nature… period, not just within agriculture.
Macroclimate is what exists in the grand scheme of things, like the image above. It’s the overall climate of a specific region, like a heavy fog that blankets the Russian River Valley, for instance.
Mesoclimate is what happens in a region on a smaller scale. The mesoclimate has variables in altitude, soil types, and the distance from a river ~ where the fog will burn off further away from a river’s bank first, and evaporate to the river’s edge as it goes through the burning off process.
Microclimate is what exists within a few rows of a vineyard. It’s in the microclimate that vineyardists have the most control of managing for distinct flavors and aromas of wine grapes and the resulting wine. This is the reason why we’re continually reading about this particular climate over all the others.
As I walked with Dick Keenan at his Kick Ranch Vineyard, Dick explained that those winemakers who are buying his fruit are very row specific for what they’re purchasing, because they’ve been in on all the vineyard practices for those exact microclimate rows. The winemakers know the rows so well, and have had a hand in shaping the vines’ microclimates, that they’re not interested in anyone else’s vines, except as a curiosity once the wine’s been produced.
Canopy microclimate refers to the environment around the individual foliage of a vine. While a vineyard would have had early morning fog, as it burns off, cool moisture remains under the vine’s canopy. While it’s burning off above the vine bringing in warmer air, within the canopy system, it takes a bit longer for the fog to evaporate, and consequently keeps the grapes a bit cooler for an extended period of time.