There has been some discussion on whether or not grapes grown at higher altitude, taste any different from those grown at more normal elevations. I would guess that most of you haven't really paid much attention to where you wine grapes come from, much less, how high above sea level they were grown. I decided to put together a wine tasting event of only "high altitude" wines, to see if our wine club members noticed anything different. More on that a little later.
|Catena Zapata Vineyards|
According to research reports, "chemical analysis of grapes from four high-altitude vineyards supports the position that the same variety, in this case cabernet sauvignon, offers distinct aromas and flavors when cultivated at differing elevations and in varying soils."
Currently, the highest vineyards in the world are located in Argentina. They are located in the Salta region, and are located in the Altura Maxima vineyard at 9,849 feet. The wines are produced by Hess, under the name of Colomé.Another vineyard has been planted further up the mountain at 10,206 feet, and should be ready for it's first harvest this year.
Back to our wine tasting....the biggest challenge was finding wines to taste. Most wineries do not mention the altitude of their vineyards, so plenty of online research was done before heading to the wine shop. I knew that Argentinian wines would be on the menu, so Malbec, and Torrontes were a given. The highest vineyards in Europe had to be in the Alps, Dolomite, or Pyrenees mountain ranges, but I found the highest vineyards are actually located on Mt Etna, on Sicily in Italy (elevation of 10,992ft, with vineyards at around 3,600 ft.)
We ended up tasting the following wines: Fabres Montmayu Phebus Torrontes '10 (vineyards at 3,000ft); Chateau Chevalier Spring Mountain Sauvignon Blanc '06 (vineyards at 1,000ft); Tenuta della Terre Nere Etna Rosso '10 (vineyards at 2,200ft); Bodega Catena Zapata Malbec '08 (vineyards at 5,000ft); Don Miguel Gascon Malbec '09 (vineyards range between 2,000 and 5,000ft); Alterra Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon '04 (vineyards between 1,400 and 2,200ft); and Smith-Madrone Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon '04 (vineyards between 1,300 and 1,900ft).
As more wineries explore higher altitude, it will be interesting to see if they tout their elevation. Right now, it takes a lot of research and a lot of shopping to find these wines (other than wines made in Argentina). I'm going to search for Colomé, and do some more "research".