You wouldn’t believe some of the places where vineyards can grow and flourish. Sometimes, extreme and unexpected conditions can make for an extraordinary vintage.
Grapes that get their start in risky wine-growing conditions might just end up as a delicious glassful with a story to tell. Let’s explore some of the craziest places where vintners have chosen to grow their wines, and what these daring conditions contribute to the quality of the wine itself.
- Volcanic wine
When you imagine a romantic day walking through vineyards, strolling along the charred soils at the base of a volcano may not be the scene that comes to mind. However, volcanic soils are very fertile, and from the ashes grows volcano wine of unbelievable quality. Volcanic vineyards have birthed some incredible reds and whites in recent years. Winemakers from California to the Canary Islands in Spain are choosing to experiment with the rare benefits of growing on volcanic soil.
The unique qualities of these soils offer mineral-rich conditions that make it all the way to the wine drinker’s palate. Whites grown in volcanic soils take on zesty, citrusy notes, while volcanic reds embody an earthy, mineral-toned flavour. These striking combinations have drinkers of volcano wine coming back for more, so it’s no wonder they’ve boomed in popularity in recent years.
- Wine by the Pacific Ocean
Amelia wine is a distinctive selection which grows in vineyards close to the Pacific coast in Chile. The Quebrada Seca Vineyard is located in Chile’s Limarí Valley just 22 kilometres from the ocean. Cool sea breezes and overcast mornings give Amelia’s wines an extended ripening period and a fresh, aromatic finish.
The coastal conditions that Amelia’s grapes grow in give the finished product a crisp minerality. Cool evenings and breezes from the Humboldt Current mean the grapes ripen at a slower rate and have time to take on their signature flavour. Only particular grapes grow well in these fresh conditions, so Amelia’s bold location only yields a select few varieties of wine, such as the Amelia Chardonnay and Amelia Pinot Noir, as these grapes fair best in the wild elements presented by the Pacific Coast.
- Desert vineyards
Just envisioning the harsh conditions of the desert is enough to leave anyone feeling parched. Why not quench your thirst with a wine grown in these impossible, unforgiving conditions? Believe it or not, desert vineyards grow juicy grapes that yield lovely experimental new varieties of wine; the grapes tend to store more sugar, which then creates a higher-alcohol wine. Playing with the conditions of sun, heat, and bone-dry soil, you wouldn’t expect the success winemakers have seen with their desert wine varieties.
These desert vineyards are not just experimenting with these risky conditions for the sake of novelty. They are pioneering uncharted territory in the name of climate change. Winemakers from Arizona to Israel are experimenting with the conditions of desert vineyards, to see how a hotter, drier future will affect the world of winemaking. Wines grown in these arid climes create experimental flavours that burst to life despite their stifling origins.
- High altitude wines
Did you know there are wines grown high up in the mountains? These high-altitude wines are among many varieties that benefit from the cool growing conditions and concentrated sun exposure achieved at these extreme heights. The conditions offered by a high altitude setting thicken the grapes’ skin by exposing them to intensified sun rays. Then, at sundown, the grapes are subjected to cool, dark evenings. Certain varieties of wine thrive in these conditions, with results often as special as their place of origin.
High altitude wines take on a fresh, light flavour. Often, high-altitude reds have an intensified taste due to higher levels of antioxidants. There are many benefits to growing wine at a high altitude, but they can be subject to extremely cold temperatures and frost, which are a danger to the wine. Many winemakers say the benefits outweigh the risks, and will happily continue taking the winemaking industry to new heights.
- Urban wines
Another fantastic vineyard setting is within the urban sprawl of a city. New York, Los Angeles, Paris, and London are among the cities that boast their own urban vineyards. Wines grown in urban settings may be trendy and unique, but these conditions make the winemaking process tricky in a different way. Urban conditions are risky due to limited acreage, city pollution, and poor soil conditions. That is why delicious wines developed at urban wineries are treasures in their own right.
Among urban wineries are vineyards with incredible histories. Local artists saved a plot of land from a fate of urban development in Paris. A vineyard was abandoned and salvaged by a new generation of wine lovers in Venice. A group banded together to ensure the proceeds of their wines went to their local communities in Greece. Regardless of their size or location, urban wineries have stories that are essential to the world of winemaking. These urban vineyards prove that wine can bring people together in powerful ways.