Wines for a warming world | David Williams

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Wines for a warming world

Ever-soaring temperatures are a challenge to wine makers, but these Mediterranean wines from forward-thinking vineyards and hardy grape varieties will be able to cope

Feel the heat: record temperatures mean that some wine growers have moved to higher altitudes in search of cooler areas for their vines to thrive.

Sun 22 Aug 2021 01.00 EDT

Gallina de Piel Roca del Crit, Emporda, Spain 2018 (GBP19.99, butlers-winecellar.co.uk) This has been another exceptionally hot summer in southern Europe, one in which news outlets across the region have reported the record-breaking temperatures without any trace of Guinness Book-style wonder, just a kind of numbed certainty that the climate crisis is here to stay. Mediterranean winegrowers, their senses finely attuned to the tiniest of changes in weather patterns – changes they can taste in their wines as well as see and feel in their vineyards – have been in the advance guard of warning about climate change. And many have been asking which places, and which varieties, can remain viable as 40C+ temperatures become the norm. Some have looked for mitigating cool by planting at higher altitudes. Others, such as the makers of this gorgeous carignan-grenache blended red, seek out the moderating influence of the sea, and, in this case, the buffeting Tramuntana wind in their vineyards on and around the Cap de Creus peninsula just south of the French border.

MIP Classic White Provence 2020 (GBP14.95, leaandsandeman.co.uk) The duo at the helm of the Gallina del Piel operation – which includes David Seijas, the former sommelier of Ferran Adria’s long-closed but lastingly influential Catalan three-Michelin-star restaurant, El Bulli – is more concerned than most with providing a clear indication of the vintage conditions. The colour of the cap sported by the bicycling chicken on the illustrated labels denotes the type of vintage. For 2018, the cap is red, which means an unusually hot, dry year. But the wine is very far from being hot or heavy: there’s an underlying freshness behind the aniseed and rosemary-scented red and blackberry fruit that is the result of careful winemaking, the seaside positioning of the grenache vines and the advanced age (up to 86 years old) of the carignan. There’s a similar combination of sun and strong moderating wind (“11 different winds!” say the producers) in the vineyards between the Mediterranean and the Ste-Victoire mountain that produce the fruit for the impressively expressive MIP dry white.

Clos Colombu Tribbiera Rouge, Corsica, France 2018 (GBP17, Harvey Nicholls) The grape variety behind MIP White is vermentino, which has become increasingly popular across the Mediterranean and warmer parts of the New World in recent years thanks to its ability to retain freshness and brightness in hotter temperatures. Certainly the MIP has a lovely zip to it: there’s grapefruit and lime, but also more expansive tropical fruit and a satisfying balance between the mouth-filling and the mouth-cleansing. Vermentino is also the main white grape variety in the distinctive Italy-meets-France winemaking culture on Corsica, where leading producer Clos Columbu again makes the most of the moderating, cooling influence of the sea and the mountains in its vineyards above the Gulf of Calvi. The estate’s white (100% vermentinu) is a beautiful expression of citrus, stone fruit and herb; its red, a blend of the local sciaccarellu and niellucciu (aka Tuscany’s sangiovese) with a little of southern France’s syah, is vividly cherry-scented with notes of thyme and oregano and effortless succulent drinkability.

Follow David Williams on Twitter @Daveydaibach

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