Reds Like Cool Weather Too!

Fall 2008 CSANews Issue 68  |  Posted date : Sep 19, 2008.Back to list

Some wine enthusiasts believe that red-wine grape varieties prefer warm climates.  It is true that certain reds like the heat.  But other varieties, such as Pinot noir and Cabernet Franc prefer cool, climatic wine regions, areas such as Oregon, Washington state, Long Island and northern California.  What about the Pinot noirs of New Zealand and northern France?  What about red burgundy?  

Pinot noir, for example, prefers a cool climate. This grape buds and ripens early, and so is best suited for cool to marginal climates.  In cool climates, these grapes are able to stay on the vine longer without 'raisining.'  As a result, the wines are more complex.

In cool-climate regions, certain red acquires its sugars during the day through photosynthesis.  Cool nights give the grapes their higher level of acidity.  As a result, these wines are more delicate and possess high aromatics, layers of complex flavours, refreshing acidity, good structure and decent alcohol.  

In warm climates, the hot conditions help grapes acquire higher sugar levels with lower acidity.  The resulting wines are fuller bodied with high alcohol, forward and darker berry flavours, good structure, and less acidity.

One style of wine is not better than the other; they each have their place on the dinner table.  Cool-climate reds, however, are served slightly chilled, making them ideal for hot-weather dining.

The well-know wine critic Clive Coates is quoted as saying of the Romanee-Conti vineyard of Domaine de la Romanee-Conti (DRC) in Burgundy, "The scarcest, most expensive – and frequently the best – in the world…if you can lay your hands on a case – and this is a big 'if' – you would have to pay 5,000 pounds or more for a young vintage, double or treble for a wine in its prime…This is the purest, most aristocratic and most intense Pinot Noir you could possibly imagine.  Not only nectar; a yardstick with which to judge all Burgundies."

Many wine aficionados will tell you that not only do some grapes prefer a cool climate, they also have the ability for greater aging potential in the wine cellar. In good years, cool-climate reds possess the ideal balance of fruitiness, acidity, alcohol and tannin.  This harmony of elements works together over time, so the wine will age well. Tannin is a preservative.  Some people think that tannin is the reason red wines have the ability to age well.  Tannin alone is not enough to give red wine its aging potential.  Tannin will help a red last for a long time in the cellar, but it does not ensure that the red will be enjoyable, or even drinkable.

The wine also needs heightened fruit flavours and a balance of the preservatives of alcohol, tannin and acidity.  I've tasted many 20-year-old reds with excellent structure and collapsed fruit flavours.  This is due to insufficient acidity in the wine.  With low acidity, the fruit flavours moved from fresh, bright and ripe to cooked and cloying over time.  This acidity comes naturally to cool-climate red wines.   

Cool-climate reds are excellent food wines.  The bright acidity in these wines cleans the palate between bites.  They can have enough structure and alcohol to stand up to fatty fish such as salmon or tuna, a juicy, tender steak or a slab of venison.  

Pinot noir and Cabernet Franc are two grapes, from cool climate regions, that are worth exploring.

I enjoy reds from all climates.  Cool and warm reds have their place in my cellar.   Sometimes I feel like red Burgundy and at other times I crave South African shiraz.  Sometimes I'll alter elements in a dish to work with a specific wine.  A pasta with tomato sauce can work with either a cool-climate or a warm-climate red.  With red Burgundy, I use fresh tomatoes for my sauce.  The tomatoes retain their natural acidity, which complements the wine's same sensation.  

If I feel like an Australian shiraz or South African Grenache, I'll serve pasta in a roasted-tomato sauce.  Roasting concentrates the fruity flavours and reduces the acidity.  The wine's forward fruit character then matches the concentrated fruitiness of the tomatoes.  

Here are some recipe and cool-climate red recommendations:

Summer Vegetable Soup with Herb-Rolled Pappardelle

Serves 6 to 8

This is one of my favourite summer soups.  The recipe for the pasta is included.  However, I purchase my fresh pasta and free-range chicken broth at a local pasta shop, which quickens the preparation process.  The herbs are placed between the pappardelle, a wide flat noodle, creating a fun, transparent effect.  Pappardelle is extra-thin sheets of pasta, like ravioli, but 1/8-inch thick rolled out to be 1/16-inches thick.
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp water
  • ¾ cup loosely packed mixture of herbs [flat-leaf parsley, sage, oregano, basil, mint] all stems removed)
  • 9 cups chicken stock
  • ¼ cup sliced fresh green beans (1/4-inch thick)
  • ¼ cup sliced fresh yellow beans (1/4-inch thick)
  • ¼ cup sliced carrots (1/4-inch thick)
  • 1 yellow summer squash, halved, seeded, diced ¼-inch thick
  • ½ red pepper, seeded, membrane removed, diced ¼-inch thick
  • Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (for garnish)
  • Finely chopped green onion (for garnish)
To make the pasta, in a bowl of a food processor, pulse together the flour and salt.  Add the egg and water.  Process until the dough forms a soft ball and is not sticky.  Knead dough on lightly floured work surface until soft and smooth, about three minutes.  Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let stand for half an hour.  Divide dough into three pieces.  With a pasta machine, roll one piece out to 1/8-inch thick.  Place the sheet of pasta flat on a lightly floured work surface.  Scatter ¼ cup of herb mixture over half of the dough.  Spray a light mist of water over the herbs.  Fold the other half of the pasta over the herbs, and press the layers together.  Roll out the pasta until it is 1/16-inch thick. Using a sharp knife, cut the pasta into 1-inch wide strips.  Toss with flour.  Repeat with remaining two pieces of pasta and ½ cup of herbs.  The pasta can sit at room temperature for several hours or cover with a towel in the refrigerator overnight.

Warm the chicken stock in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the vegetables and simmer for three minutes.  

To serve, place a few pasta noodles in the bottom of a soup bowl.  Pour some soup over top of the noodles just to cover.  Let soak for two minutes to cook and soften the noodles.  Then fill the bowl with hot soup.   Repeat for all bowls of soup.  Garnish soup with Parmigiano and serve hot.

Wine Suggestion:  Oregon Pinot Noir

The chicken broth and cheese give this soup enough substance to stand up to a cool-climate Pinot noir.

Saumon  Grille au Beurre Rouge (Grilled  Salmon with a Red  Butter Sauce)

Serves 6 to 8
  • 1 (2 lb) whole salmon, skin attached
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 shallots, minced
  • 2 cups red wine, preferably an inexpensive Pinot noir
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Brush both sides of salmon with oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Line a large baking pan with foil.  Set salmon on foil.  Set pan five inches from heat.  Broil for five minutes.  Turn salmon carefully and broil for another five minutes.  Remove pan from oven.  Transfer salmon to a shallow baking dish.  Place rack in middle of oven.  Set oven to 425 F.  Place baking dish in oven and bake salmon for about 15 minutes or to desire doneness.

To make sauce, combine shallots and red wine in a saucepan.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bring liquid to a boil over high heat. Reduce to 3 tbsp, about 20 minutes.  Remove pan from heat.  Add one cube of butter.  Let butter melt, stirring frequently.  Add another cube of butter, repeat stirring.  Return the pan to low heat and, stirring constantly, add remaining butter, one cube at a time, until all used.  Do not let the sauce boil.  

Remove the salmon from the oven.  Place on a serving platter.  Sauce can be drizzled on top or served in separate mini bowls.

Wine Suggestion:  Red Burgundy

Both the salmon and the sauce are high in fat.  A red Burgundy has enough weight to match.