Alas, the sun has crossed the celestial equator from north to south. Summer is now quite uneasy, shifting into fall in the north, while life is springing into action down south.
What a beautiful time of the year! When grapes are cut from the vine to create new wine, and the promise of spring stimulates a new vintage.
I know a winemaker who has a project both in Chile and Spain. I can never get ahold of him for extended periods twice a year, as he’s too busy prepping the vines on one end and receiving grapes on the other. Loco!
Even though I lived in Chile for ten years, I always have to stop and think about Southern Hemisphere vintages. The grapes bud in one year and are harvested in the next. The north is simpler, fitting perfectly into a calendar year.
Southern Hemisphere wines take on the vintage of when they were harvested, adhering to an agricultural year. So all the beautiful buds right now will contribute to 2022’s vintage. As harvest is anywhere between February-April, you can expect fresh whites and rosé wines that very same year.
This setup is perfect for the palates that love young zingers, the difference in hemispheres creating a constant flow of fresh wine. Just when the northern bottles dry up, the south replenishes stock. And so on.
Hemispheres are curious things, concepts created to make sense of the Earth’s tilt. The Northern Hemisphere is made up of 90% land, while the Southern is 90% water. Yet no matter where you are, the sun always rises in the East. And as long as you’re between 30 and 50 degrees latitude on either side of the equator, you can grow grapes—though as the world heats up, winemaking regions are expanding into northern and southern extremes.
Of course, there are many other factors, such as altitude and proximity to water that will ultimately determine whether there’s a sweet spot for grapes or not. Grape variety will also play a role.
For example, Chenin Blanc buds early and is therefore more susceptible to late spring frosts. Carmenere is one of the last varieties to ripen, so long, dry summers are best.
It’s complicated. And it’s fascinating.
So here’s to the beginning, and cheers to the end!