From the vineyard to the winery, a variety of influencing factors come together to produce a wine that expresses its own unique varietal characteristics. The word ‘terroir’ is often used to describe all the elements of the natural environment that play an important part in the creation a particular wine. Exploring this concept helps one understand the intricate ways in which wine is created and appreciate how much the natural environment influences the winemaking process.
The weather that a wine region experiences plays a pivotal role in determining which particular grape varieties can be successfully grown in the area. Hotter climates are known for producing wines that are bold and full-bodied, with delicious dark fruit flavours. On the opposite end of the spectrum, cooler climates – such as what we can experience in our Great Southern vineyards – typically produce more elegant wines which are light bodied and often enjoyed for their bright fruit flavours. This cooler climate allows us to produce the high-quality Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz for which Howard Park and the Great Southern wine region is internationally acclaimed for.
There’s a reason why the type of soil found on the vineyard is often mentioned when talking about wine and its characteristics. Soil plays a vital role in the performance of high quality vines and fruit. You may often hear the term ancient soils, gravelly loam, clay or sandy soils. Much like the way climate can dictate which wine grape varieties are best grown in specific regions, different grapes are also suited to these specific types of soils. Extensive soil profile mapping in the vineyard has allowed Howard Park viticulturists to match different soil types to specific grape varieties to help maximise the varietal expression in the wines.
Although there are thousands of different wine grapes to choose from, there are a few core varieties that most people will be aware of regardless of how well versed they are in the world of wine. For red wines, these wine grape varieties are Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. For white wines, they are Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
In both varietal wines and blended wines, grapes provide the basis for how the wine taste, while other influencing factors such as the climate, when they are harvested and the vinification process all contribute to their final tasting profile.
Of course, the producer plays the important role of ensuring that the wine takes on the best of its natural characteristics and the final product is of the highest quality.Traditional winemaking skills such as the use of oak barrels and careful blending procedures help to ensure perfect harmony is achieved within a wine. – after all, great wine doesn’t simply create itself! It takes an experienced team of viticulturists and winemaking professionals working together to create a wine. The winemaker decides on a myriad of influencing factors, such as when to harvest the grapes, how to harvest the grapes, how long it will spend ageing in a barrel and the blend of grapes that will produce that wine. Careful planning, experience and an intuition for what creates a great bottle of wine is central to mastering the precise art of winemaking.