In the search for cooler sites, particularly in these days of noticeable climate change, vignerons have a number of options open to them:
- Head north: more northerly climates tend to be cooler (note the Champenois taking a keen interest in southern England).
- The north face: vineyards with a northerly aspect receive less sun than those facing south, making them a little cooler.
- To the coast: large bodies of water – such as oceans, seas and even lakes – moderate land temperatures – even more so if they help generate a bit of fog.
- Where the wind blows: even if not that close to the coast, having regular strong winds helps to keep the temperature down, for example in the northern Rhône
Of course, the first two points are reversed for the southern hemisphere!
El Coto 875m Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2017 (12.0%, RRP €18.99 at Vintry Rathgar, DrinkStore Stoneybatter, McHughs Malahide Rd & Kilbarrack Rd, O’Donovans Cork, World Wide Wines Waterford, Sweeney’s, Gibney’s Malahide & Deveneys Dundrum)
In Rioja, the four options above aren’t readily available, so for its new plantings of Chardonnay, major producer El Coto followed a different path: the only way is up (the mountain)! As highlighted on the label, the vineyard is at 875 metres, the highest point in the whole of Rioja. The altitude promotes acidity and minerality, while the longer growing season allows some light tropical notes to show through. The barrels used for fermentation are not toasted (steam is used to bend them into shape instead of a fire) so the oak notes are not overly prominent, with just a touch of vanilla added to the citrus.
This is no Meursault wannabe, it’s far more subtle than that. Keeping with the Burgundy parallels, I’d say a closer description would be Chablis 1er Cru from a warm vintage – a great effort indeed for a new variety in Rioja!
And for those who may remember it, here’s the track I referenced in the article title: