3 Surprising Facts About Microclimates in Vineyards

Microclimate, as the name implies, is a small area with specific climate conditions. Or, not? 

The Definition

The accurate definition is a local climate that differs from the surrounding one. There is no consideration of area size here at all. It is the difference that matters. Thus, the micro here is not one millionth part of something, as it may come across.

The Background

This is surely not the first text on the subject. And, yes, an interplay of vineyards and microclimates is an everlasting topic. A good overview by The Wine Enthusiast Magazine will get you up to speed.

The Facts and the Data

We have already looked at some of the general microclimate data and effects in our previous posts on temperature differences and the importance of in canopy measurements. The attention in this piece goes to 3 aspects of vital importance to a lifespan of a vineyard during any season.

1: Temperature during frosts

The frost is a peculiar event, during which there is no wind. This allows for manifestation of all other local climatic factors. The results are a difference of 3°C (6°F) in temperatures across distances of 80-150m. If such an event is to occur after the bud break, it could mean life or death to a vine shoot. And less shoots equals to less fruit this and the next season.

Temperature differences of maximum 2 and 4 Celsius in a 3Ha vineyard during winter frost.
Minimum daily temperature in a 3Ha vineyard during winter. Distances between sections vary from 50 to 150m.
Winter frost temperature variation across 5Ha of vineyards of up to 2 degrees Celsius
Minimum daily temperature in a 5Ha section of a larger vineyard during winter. Distances between sections vary from 100 to 250m.

2: Relative air humidity duration

Neighboring vineyard sections often experience different values of relative humidity. This happens 30% or more times. Ultimately, this indicates disease prone spots. In challenging years, these spots cause an undesired disease outbreak. And nobody is happy if diseased grapes end up being an input to a cellar.

Air humidity differences between neighboring vineyard blocks during consecutive days in the month of September 2022. The difference goes up to 10% in values.
Relative air humidity difference on the 23rd and 24th of September 2022 between three neighboring vineyard blocks over 6Ha.
Air humidity differences between neighboring vineyard blocks during days in the month of August 2022. The difference goes up to 9% in values.
Relative air humidity difference on the 18th and 23th of August 2022 between four neighboring vineyard blocks over 2Ha.

3: Maturity differential

Temperature differences, accumulated during a season, correspond to different maturity levels, altogether. This can even be 7-10 days. In a year with enough heat and favorable conditions this could become an advantage. On the other hand, in a challenging, perhaps a lagging year, this can cause a problem. A problem extending to a level that the wine style becomes completely limited by this effect.

GDD values in August of 2022 on the neighboring plots in a radius of 150m that indicate a potential for 7-10 days difference in harvest dates for Pinot Noir grapes.
Values of growing degree days (GDD) between two groups of neighboring vineyard plots on the same day in August 2022 respectively. The difference of 80-90 GDD makes for a maturity delay of at least 7 days.

What Does it all Mean

It is certain that microclimate is an undisputed part of any terroir. Does it mean that there is the best one for the best outcome? Perchance. The last question implies a brave assumption that demands for a broader scientific proof. What is certain, though, the people that work the vineyards are aware of the differences. They are always trying to find the best thriving spots for their vines. There is no good reason why any climate concerned grape grower would not do the same. Especially now as our winessenseⓇ microclimate tools for winegrowing are more accessible.

Winessense sensor network and vineyard management software, lets anyone track microclimate of each block in any vineyard and get accurate forecasts and notifications on grape diseases and vine growth. We finally have precision viticulture tools that are easy to deploy and use, and allow wine estates of all sizes to tap into every corner of their estate in real-time.



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