It is often said that the best wines are made on the edges, in areas where ripening grapes can be a struggle, from year to year. Over the last couple of decades, it seems that the edges of those cool-climate regions have been shifting with climate change, and nowhere is this more apparent than southern England, where a major three-day gathering, the 9th International Cool Climate Wine Symposium, will be taking place May 26-28, 2016.
Not too far from Brighton, where the Symposium will be held, are dozens of vineyards where English winemakers are drawing better and better wines. In particular, there are some strong sparkling wines that could, in some producers’ and writers’ minds, be able to challenge the wines of Champagne, in terms of quality and appeal. For those enthusiastic supporters of English fizz, the fact that Champagne has seen warmer seasons may make their wines a bit less crisp and energetic, while the English climate has gained just enough degree days to make their wines closer in ripeness and style to what has made Champagne so sought-after.
With the Symposium just a month away, here are some things to look forward to at this year’s conference:
A Prestigious Group of Speakers
Whether English sparkling makers are right to position themselves so enthusiastically may be a matter of debate—the kind of debate that will probably take place during the dozens of sessions held in Brighton next month. Topics will range from winter protection of vineyards to wine marketing and wine tourism, managing phenolics in cool climate wines, vineyards’ soils and root system management, vineyard diseases, and emerging varieties for cooler regions. Some of the wine world’s best-known writers, like Oz Clarke and Jancis Robinson, will be among the major speakers of the event, with a closing keynote delivered by Dr. Jamie Goode.
Experts from England, Germany, France, Australia, Switzerland, China, and the United States, among other countries, will tackle these often highly technical and innovation-driven topics, providing producers with a great opportunity to learn from other regions’ challenges, expertise, and new tools that can help manage winemaking in a cool climate context. For instance, Nomacorc researcher Stéphane Vidal, head of Enology, will be presenting on the real-time management of phenolics in grapes and during winemaking based on a voltammetric fingerprinting approach, while two researchers from the University of La Rioja will be discussing how smartphone apps and robots can help improve monitoring of flowering and growth conditions directly in the vineyards. High-tech stuff, indeed!
One of the challenges for many producers in cool climate areas is that they often operate in regions with a relatively short winegrowing history. In places like England, Canada, Oregon, New Zealand, and many parts of the United States, serious efforts at making fine wine go back barely more than four or five decades. These places can have very different seasonal cycles from more traditional winemaking regions, which can deeply influence all sorts of aspects of grape ripening and other elements that make up a wine’s character, like phenolics, aromatic components, and acidity levels.
Such questions will be addressed in very specific detail by panels of scientists from some of the top universities and research centers in the world, in addition to seasoned industry figures, who will also be taking on subjects like maintaining vine balance in cooler conditions or how to deal with vineyard pests, as well as questions on the suitability or adaptability of different grape varieties to different regions. Dr. José Vouillamoz, co-author of the encyclopedic work Wine Grapes and one of the great authorities on grape genetics, will be presenting an overview of novel varieties that are suitable for cool climate areas. Researchers from Cornell University, in New York, will also address approaches in optimizing red wines made from hybrid grapes.
One of the factors that makes this conference all the more relevant is the growing trend in the fine wine market for fresher, crisper, lower-alcohol wines—something that cool climate regions can deliver with consistency. Sessions will address how wine producers from those regions can take advantage of growing demand, through market strategies as well as defining strong regional identities that customers can easily recognize.
Overall, the conference will be covering just about every aspect of cool climate wines, from planting to vinifying to packaging and tasting (there will be a number of sessions on sensory questions and even “emotional expectations” in wine tasting). With so much ground covered and so many possibilities for development, it seems clear this international symposium will be addressing the rather hot topics surrounding cool climate wines.
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Nomacorc, a member of Vinventions, is proud to be a major sponsor of the 9th International Cool Climate Wine Symposium. We are particularly excited to be attending this event in England, a growing producer of world-class still and sparkling wines.