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.