Monday, May 17, 2010

Latitudes are all relative

I can't believe how often I hear people using the latitude of a winery to sell their wines. "Oh, it's the same latitude as (fill in the blank). That reasoning is an easy, lazy and completely misleading way to compare 2 wineries that are continents apart.
I know, it sounds easy to use this not only to explain, but to help understand. Wine grape growing is a complicated matter that depends on many factors for success. Latitude is unfortunately, usually not the most important factor. Cleveland, Chicago and NYC all lie along the same Latitude as Burgundy, Napa is considerably further south than Bordeaux, and actually, Willamette Valley is the same Latitude as Bordeaux.
Factors we don't discuss often enough are the Trades (or Tradewinds) which save Dijon from Midwest-type Winters, even though it is further North than Minnesota. Diurnal temperature swings, which have more to do with relative average humidity than global position, unless you factor in marine influence. Then there is alkali vs. acid soil types, which is a completely different set of micro-factors.
It's tempting to try to oversimplify something as complex as grape growing, but as consumers dig deeper to try to figure out why their Pinot Noir from Winnipeg tastes more like something you'd find in a salad than what you might expect to find in Burgundy, you'd better come up with a better explanation.


  1. No different than folks who live just outside of Beverly Hills calling where they live 'Beverly Hills Adjacent' . . .

    Have to find some way to compare yourself to something you 'know' others like . . .

    Sad, really - can't a wine stand on its own two feet and be appreciated for what it is?!?!?


  2. The same lattitude in the same valley might be worth noting. But the same lattitude in a different state? Give me a break.

  3. When most people in the USA think New Zealand is part of Australia, and that New Zealand has kangaroos on their labels, it sometimes helps to utilize lattitude to help people get their heads around the fact that 45 degrees SOUTH (Central Otago) is similar to Burgundy at 45 degrees north, and a great place to grow Pinot Noir. It's not being lazy, just trying to connect on any level that works!

  4. Pinot Seller-This is actually a great point. You are absolutely correct, using latitude as a general tool to show some orientation is COMPLETELY acceptable in my eyes. It's the "blank vineyard" lies on the same parallel as Chave that kills me.