High-Altitude Vineyards That Are Changing Wine

From the Mosel’s Riesling vines that dip at dizzying 70-degree angles, to the Canary Islands’ arid garia holes that harbor Malvasía, or Norwegian vineyards located at 59º latitude, winemakers push grapes to all kinds of extremes. One of those extremes is altitude. We take a look at six vineyards reaching dizzying heights on each continent (excluding Antarctica), and what effect the altitude has on the wines.

Ao Yun vineyards, Meili Snow Mountain, China.

Australia

Black Mountain Vineyard, Clunes, New South Wales

4,285 feet above sea level

Dealing exclusively in cool-climate loving Pinot Noir, Jared Dixon of Jilly Wines first set eyes on Black Mountain Vineyard in 2012.

“A friend was leasing the land and making some fantastic sparkling,” says Dixon. “The fruit was outstanding. That, plus the altitude, were a big attraction for me.”

Africa

Mount Sutherland, South Africa

4,921 feet above sea level

The harsh conditions of Mount Sutherland, at Super Single Vineyards. Ph: Super Single Vineyards

“Given that Mount Sutherland Vineyards are so cold and unforgiving, it’s summed up perfectly as the kind of place you send mountain goats [for] boot camp,” says winemaker Kyle Zulch at Super Single Vineyards.

After a stint in Europe, winery owner Daniel de Waal returned to South Africa determined to create the country’s first cool continental winemaking region. In 2004, he planted Syrah on rootstock in the Karoo, a semi-arid desert. It was the first cultivation in the area, which he followed up with Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and Riesling.

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