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Because this topic is so relevant, we are doing a Part 2 to introduce you to three more wines that are being impacted by climate change. As a review, climate change is affecting viticulturists and winemakers in two major ways:

1) The world is getting warmer. Whatever the reason for this, it is an irrefutable fact. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration show that the global temperature has risen a full 1°C (1.8°F) from before the industrial revolution, and eight of the ten warmest years on record have occurred in the last decade. Viticulturists see it in their vineyards: Vines are budding and flowering earlier resulting in harvests having to take place on average ten days to two weeks sooner than they did just a decade ago. The winemaker, more heat means riper grapes with more sugar resulting in higher alcohol levels after fermentation along with higher acidity levels, and lower tannins, all of which change how they do their work in the cellar to maintain consistent products.

2) Extreme weather has become more common and unpredictable. Although warmer weather overall has resulted in milder winters, they are far from consistent. As we mentioned, vines have been coming out of dormancy early, but then a monthlong cold snap will come along to kill off swathes of vineyards, especially young and fragile vines before the growing season even begins. These changing weather patterns are also causing wildfires, floods, droughts, and severe hailstorms more frequently than has ever been recorded.


Vitus vinifera thrives in two wine belts (read more about this in our High Altitude Wines wine club edition) that wrap around the world laterally, one north of the equator and one south of the equator. The different varietals of Vitus vinifera are mutations that have adapted over millennia in the range of climates within these wine belts. In basic terms, varietals more tolerant of warmer temperatures grow well in the south of the Northern Hemisphere belt and in the north of the Southern Hemisphere belt and vice versa for varietals that have adapted to cooler temperatures.

For the first time since humans have been tracking where Vitus vinifera thrives, growth production has shifted to the point that some of the grapes more tolerant of colder weather are even thriving OUTSIDE of the belts, i.e., north of the Northern Hemisphere and south of the Southern Hemisphere. Examples outside of the Northern Hemisphere belt are England, Belgium, Denmark, Norway and Sweden where white wines, sparkling wines and even some red varietals are being seriously cultivated for commercial sale.
Otherwise, within the wine belts, viticulturists are increasingly: seeking higher ground; moving vines to plots that receive less direct sun; harvesting earlier to avoid too much heat or untimely storms; or replanting with varietals that are better suited to the new climate and weather conditions.


France is the most obvious example of how viticulturists are using different varietals to adapt to climate change. Because the country’s appellations are the strictest in terms of which types of varietals are allowed to be included in an appellation, which is always based on region, the official sanctioning of new varietals has been telling. After one too many challenging harvests, Bordeaux appellations are allowing seven new varietals into their blends, most of them not even native to the nation of France: Marselan, Touriga Nacional, Castets and Arinarnoa (cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat) for red; and Alvarinho, Petit Manseng and Liliorila for white.
Source: https://winefolly.com/tips/start-planning-now-wine-harvest-season/


We must never forget that wine does not happen naturally. Even for the most minimal intervention natural wine, human manipulation is necessary to bottle a drinkable product. With climate change wreaking havoc on the normal growing process of varietals, blending has been one pivotal tool for achieving desired taste profiles or consistency. Of course this is not new (e.g., percentages of varietals in Bordeaux wines have always changed according to the growing seasons’ differing weather patterns), but we are seeing more of it everywhere. This and other types of manipulation are elevating the need for highly trained and educated oenologists and winemakers. No longer is it so easy to have a family estate assume that a family member with passing knowledge can oversee the oenology and winemaking.

On the extreme end of human manipulation, we are also seeing more wineries foregoing vintages and employing a solera system, as is done with sherry, so that they can blend the many different expressions that have been coming from unpredictable harvests for consistency both in taste and volume. This practice is still in its infancy however, but it will certainly become more prevalent.

For this month’s wine club offerings, we have a wine that is a clear geography play, another that is combining geography, varietal change, and blending, and another that is employing blending and the solera system. Without further ado, we will let the producers and wines do the demonstrating themselves.


Featured May Amaro Wine Club Climate Change wine: Yves Cuilleron Syrah Les Vignes d'a Cote (2022)

The Cuilleron family domaine is located in the northern part of Rhone Valley in the hamlet of Verlieu (part of the town of Chavanay). It was founded in 1920 and began bottling wine commercially in 1947. They have since acquired additional vineyard property in the Condrieu, Saint Joseph Rouge and Blanc, Cote Rotie, and Saint Péray AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée) regions as well as the Collines Rhodaniennes region, which is not an AOC… yet. Currently, the region falls under the general catch-all “Vin de Pays” designation. The “yet” is because more vineyards are making quality wine in this region due to the effects of climate change. The Cuilleron domaine provides a perfect example of this change with the tried-and-true varietal of Northern Rhone: Syrah.
Yves Cuilleron in his vineyards
In the past, the family did not plant many Syrah vines on the plateau where it bought property in Collines Rhodaniennes because it was too cold and windy. And as the current family operator, Yves Cuilleron, tells it, the juice that even these small vineyards produced usually had to be chaptalized (sugar added to unfermented grape must) as the grapes were too lean. In fact, until the early 2000s, he said it was common practice for producers to chaptalize even their St. Joseph and Cote Rotie AOC wines. Now, however, with a warmer climate, the grapes have enough heft and natural sugar content to forego chaptalization, and the windy climate works to the vineyards’ advantage to keep pests and fungus at bay. Cuilleron does still have to help matters along in the vineyards with extensive debudding, for example, and sometimes a “green harvest”, which entails removing leaves to improve the ripening of the grapes, but eventually he will not even have to do this field work.

As with all their wines, the grapes for this one was hand-harvested, after which they are partially destemmed and fermented with native yeasts in open-top, temperature-controlled vats, and then aged for eight months in a mix of stainless steel and oak barrels.

FOOD PAIRINGS: pork, shellfish, mature and hard cheeses, cured meats, lean fish dishes, lamb, roasted chicken thighs seasoned with smoked paprika, classic shawarmas, chargrilled kebabs.


Featured May Amaro Wine Club Climate Change wine: Land of Saints GSM Santa Barbara County (2021)
VARIETALS: 60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 20% Mourvèdre

Land of Saints Wine Company is a collaboration, since 2013, of three friends, all seasoned winemakers from prior established wineries with a mission to adapt California wine making to climate change, and all hailing from different countries and cultures. Angela Osbourne, a New Zealander, and Jason Osborne, a Brit, are founders of A Tribute to Grace Wine Company, and Manuel Cuevas, a Mexican American, is the owner and operator of C2 Cellars.
The first thing the friends did with their collaborative enterprise was to eschew the traditional Bordeaux and Burgundy varietals that have been the backbone of wine in this region and adopt varietals more suited to the changing temperature, but also to blend them, so that they can better achieve a degree of annual consistency. Their model is Rhone Valley, both in terms of the blending and the varietal types, the latter of which they believe fare better in a hotter climate than the typical Pinot Noir and Merlot traditionally grown in the area.

The second move was to maintain flexibility regarding the sites where they sourced their grapes. The three friends live on the Central Coast and have developed an intimate knowledge of the vast array of microclimates and terrains in the area that provide many differing expressions of even the same varietals across different sites. With the unpredictability that climate change is creating for weather patterns, this site variability is yet another tool in the chest that includes adaptable varietals and blending.

For this wine, only 692 cases were produced, and grapes were sourced from sites in Los Alamos Valley, Los Olivos District, and Happy Canyon in Santa Ynez Valley. Each site used 20 percent whole-cluster during fermentation and were vinified and aged separately by site in neutral 59-gallon barrique barrels for 11 months. The four lots of product were then racked together a month before bottling.

FOOD PAIRINGS: veal dishes, lamb, red sauce pasta plates, venison, rich sauce chicken dishes


Featured May Amaro Wine Club Climate Change wine: Johannes Zillinger Revolution White (NV)
VARIETALS: 50% Chardonnay, 25% Scheurebe, 25% Riesling

Johannes Zillinger prides himself on being a minimalist, letting nature “do its thing.” Not surprisingly, his estate was one of the first in Austria to convert to organic viticulture and eventually to biodynamic farming. His wines are certified organic, and Demeter certified biodynamic. However, he is also known as being an innovator, which comes in handy because considering what climate change is doing to weather patterns, trusting to nature to do its thing is simply not enough. While Zillinger steers away from factory yeasts, additives and pesticides, he employs innovative approaches that include PiWi vines in the field, and, in the cellar, short-time fermentation on the skins, vintage blending, and solera systems.
Although this particular wine does not factor into Zillinger’s use of PiWi vines, for those who have never heard the term, we can’t just leave you hanging, so, in short it is an abbreviation for the German Pilzwiderstandsfähige Reben, which are grape varietals that have been bred over the last 20 years for fungus-resistance.

With this wine, the emphasis of innovation is on vintage blending and the solera system. For those who are passionate about sherry, you may be familiar with the solera system. The best way to describe the system is to envision multiple rows of barrels of wine stacked on top of each other (although in practice, this stacking is unnecessary), with the bottom row containing the oldest wine and the top row the most recent. Wine for bottling is extracted from the bottom row of barrels, and the amount that is taken for bottling is refilled from the next oldest row of barrels above it and the third oldest barrel replaces that amount from the second barrel, and so on. Hence, the bottom solera vat or barrel ends up consistently aged with an ongoing blend of wine from the barrels above.

In the case of Revolution White, the Chardonnay grapes, which comprise 50 percent of the wine’s blend, are put whole-bunched (not macerated) in a 500-liter amphora vessel where the grapes at the bottom are starved of oxygen (representing about 5 percent) and ferment from inside their skins without yeast, with the aid of carbon dioxide. After this intercellular fermentation, the Chardonnay grapes are then put with the Scheurebe grapes, which comprise 25 percent of the wine’s blend, and co-fermented the rest of the way with wild yeast. The last 25 percent of the wine’s blend is Riesling, which is already vinified, coming from a solera-system that has been in operation since 2013.

FOOD PAIRINGS: steamed vegetables, fried dumplings, seafood, but especially salmon or tuna dishes, soft and creamy cheeses