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Southern Hemisphere Wines: Facts and Wines from Coravin

Southern Hemisphere Wines: Facts and Wines from Coravin

When we think of the major wine regions of the world, countries in the Northern Hemisphere like Italy, France, the United States, and Spain top the list. However, while the most wine is produced and bottled in these regions north of the equator, regions on the southern half of the planet grow similar varieties but on opposite harvest schedules.

When is wine harvested in the Southern Hemisphere?

In Southern Hemisphere wine regions like Australia, Argentina, South America, and Chile, harvest happens between the months of February and April which is late summer, early autumn. In warmer climates of the Southern Hemisphere, grapes reach maturity faster leading to an earlier harvest while grapes in cooler climates are harvested closer to April.

What wine regions are in the Southern Hemisphere?

There are many wine regions south of the equator. Topping the list are Argentina, Chile, Australia, and South Africa. Also on the list is Brazil and New Zealand. Here’s a little more about some of the regions you might encounter in your local wine shop:

  • Argentina: If you’ve had wine from Argentina there’s a chance it was Malbec and that it was from Mendoza. Most of Argentina’s vineyards are located at the base of the Andes mountains in an area that gets a lot of sun and snowmelt. The primary wine region growing about 75% of Argentina’s grapes is Mendoza – a region wedged between San Juan to the north and Patagonia to the south. Other varieties include Cereza, Criolla Grande, Bondara, and Cabernet Sauvignon – lots of deep reds thanks to the high elevation and cooler temperatures.

  • Chile: Over in South America, Chile produces mostly Cabernet Sauvignon in the Central Valley. The French brought wine to the region, excited about Chile’s ideal climate and soils. Flanked by the Pacific Ocean on one side and Andes mountains on the other, vines thrive thanks to what experts call the air conditioner effect – cool ocean air pulled off the ocean then halted by the mountain range. Cool climate grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do best on the coast, while inland vineyards are best for Bordeaux Blends, and high elevation vineyards are best for interesting Syrahs, Cabernet Francs, and Malbec.

  • Australia: Grapes are grown mostly along the southern coast of Australia in South Australia (Adelaide), inland in New South Wales (Sydney), and to the west in Western Australia (Perth). The main varieties grown here are Shiraz (called Syrah everywhere else), Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This Southern Hemisphere wine region has a warm, dry climate and produces a whole lot of screw cap wines.

  • South Africa: Old world meets new world in this part of the wine universe. Most grapes grow on South Africa’s Western Cape. As for varieties, the region is arguably most famous for Chenin Blanc which thrives in the warmer climate and granite soils. The hot coastal climate is known for bold red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, and Syrah.

  • Brazil: Most wine regions are concentrated in the southernmost part of Brazil – in Campos de Cima da Serra, Planalto Catarinense, Vale do São Francisco, Serra Gaúcha, Serra do Sudeste, and Campanha. About 80 percent of the vines cultivated in Brazil’s wine country is an American grape variety called Isabella – a thick-skinned grape that can stand its own in harsher weather. Other varieties include Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and others. Try a Brazilian ​​sparkling wine – refreshing bubbly with a lower alcohol content.

  • New Zealand: This Southern Hemisphere wine region is known as the greenest wine region. The nation has an unwavering commitment to sustainability despite the challenges they face with the cooler climate. Wine regions are spread throughout the country but most wine is produced in Marlborough on the northern tip of New Zealand's south island. The island is known mostly for Sauvignon Blanc (almost 50% of wine produced). After that, top varieties include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris.

Difference between Northern and Southern Hemisphere wines

The biggest distinction between Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere wines of the same varietal comes from the soil. Other factors like terroir, weather, and winemaking skills also contribute to the taste profile and quality of the final product. Use your Coravin wine preservation system to taste the difference between, for example, a Merlot from Bordeaux and a Merlot from South Africa. Merlot is a grape that does well in both warm and cool climates. In warmer weather the grape tends to be more fruit-forward, then more tannic and earthy in cooler climates.

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5 Southern Hemisphere Wines to Explore

There are so many wonderful Southern Hemisphere wines from Argentina, Australia, and South Africa. Here’s what our in-house sommelier, William Rolfhing had to say about each:

  1. 2018 Terrazas de los Andes Malbec | Mendoza, Argentina: When Louis-Vuitton and Moet Hennessey get together to create a new wine brand, we know that luxury is the goal. Add in the winemaking talent of Cheval Blanc, and we have a team that cannot be beat. From the highest-elevation vineyards of Lujan de Cuyo and La Salta in Mendoza, the Terrazas de los Andes wines offer the freshest and most nimble versions of Malbec you will find in all of Argentina. Elegance and polish are the words that come to mind when tasting this classic Malbec.

  2. 2019 Dandelion Vineyards Riesling ‘Enchanted Garden of the Eden Valley’ | Barossa, South Australia: Elena, the owner and winemaker, grew up making wine—she was tasting barrel samples at 12 and produced her first Chardonnay at the age of 16! One of the most precocious winemakers in all of Australia, this young lady has focused on ancient vineyards and lets the land speak through her wines. Elena believes that wine is truly made in the vineyard and that her job is to shepherd the soul of the vineyard gently into the bottle. ‘The Enchanted Garden’ is the oldest planting of Riesling in all of Barossa and produces a dry, firm, and impressive wine that stands up to its name!

  3. 2016 Penfolds St Henri Shiraz | South Australia: Created as a foil to the famous Grange, this Shiraz sees no new oak, a rarity for high-quality versions of this grape. Showcasing the flavors and soul of Shiraz itself, this wine is always rich and plush in its youth but truly starts to show it’s heritage with a few years in the bottle. Flavors of cocoa and porcini blend and a softer texture starts to show off. A unique offering from a great producer!

  4. 2020 Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay | Western Cape, South Africa: As a third-generation winery in Hemel-en-Aarde in South Africa, Crystallum is part of the old guard. Focusing only on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Andrew and Peter-Allen Finlayson are continually searching for the best sites for their exemplary wines. ‘The Agnes’ Chardonnay is named after their grandmother—this vineyard always produces a sturdy, full bodied, and robust style of Chardonnay that reminds them of Agnes’ strength of character.

  5. 2020 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir Walker Bay | South Africa: Arguably the best producer of Pinot Noir in South Africa, the Hamilton Russel wines are made with a nod to Burgundy. Focusing more on earth and a more robust tannin structure, these are Pinot Noirs that are not for the faint of heart! A vegan-friendly wine with a production of only 3000 cases, it’s a snapshot of the 2020 South African vintage that will improve for several years to come.

Use your Coravin wine by the glass systems to taste the difference between wines of different regions north and south of the equator. Share your selections with us on social, @coravin.