California winemakers are going to extremes in search of freshness

California vintners are venturing ever closer to the Pacific Ocean and up into the mountains in order to produce fresher wines, according to wine educator Elaine Chukan Brown.

Winemakers in California are venturing ever closer to the Pacific Ocean and up into the mountains in search of freshness

Speaking to db during a recent trip to California, wine writer and educator Chukan Brown said this quest for freshness is a response to the over-exuberant, full-bodied style of reds being made in California in the 1990s.

Wine writer and educator Elaine Chukan Brown would like the ‘mountain’ climate type to be recognised in the same way Mediterranean, continental and maritime climates are

“Part of the recent story of California wine is the push closer to the ocean and to higher elevations to get fresher wines.

“The new generation wants to avoid making that kind of wine and is aiming instead for crunchy, lean wines – more of a long distance runner rather than a sprinter.

“There is an interest in getting as close to the coast and as high up the mountains as possible. The new wave of winemakers isn’t afraid of rusticity in wine.

“We have a lot of sun in California and don’t need to worry about ripeness. Interest is being brought into the wines by venturing into more extreme growing conditions that change the texture and concentration of the wines,” she said.

When it comes to mountain wine being considered as its own climate type in the same vein as Mediterranean, maritime and continental, Chukan Brown is in favour of the mountain climate being singled out and treated as a specific entity.

“Mountain Cabernet is one of California’s unique contributions to the world of wine. It’s it own category and we’re only just starting to understand the implications of it.

“Mountain vineyards totally change the yields, concentration, texture and shape of the wines made there.

“From the diurnal shifts in temperature to the ultraviolet light penetration, we should absolutely be talking about the specifics of mountain vineyards in California and all over the wine world,” she said.

“Ridge was one of the first producers to pioneer mountain Cabernet in California with Monte Bello, the first vintage of which was 1962,” she added.

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