When it comes to making wine, vineyards have always been in the center of attention. The location and unique environment of a vineyard greatly affects the character of a wine. It gives the wine a much desired typicity, a sense of place, a fingerprint no one can copy.
The grape vine is a very tenacious little plant and it’s cultivated all over the world. Most vineyards are quite ordinary. They fall nicely in between the temperate latitudes of 30° and 50° in countries and regions you often see mentioned on a bottle of wine. But there are some vineyards that are pushing the limit, taking grape growing to the next level.
Most vineyards are blessed with beauty but this is just ridiculous. Not sure who got the idea to cultivate vines here, but he or she is a genius. Rangiroa, a.k.a. the island of the immense sky, is an atoll located in the middle of the South Pacific. The climate isn’t exactly what I would call cold, so the vineyard produces two harvests per year in May and December. Varieties such as Carignan and Muscat of Hamburg are used to make rosé and white Vin de Tahiti. The Polynesian terroir is tricky, though. Surrounded by the big blue, white sand, coconut trees and colourful Speedos one gets distracted quite easily. Don’t like island life? Tough break, the nearest continent is more than 5,000 kilometres away.
La Geria, Lanzarote
If there are vineyards in Mars, I imagine this is what it would look like. Just picture the black volcanic soil red and you can almost see Matt Damon frolicking around the vines in a space suit. But this is not Mars, this is Spain. Lanzarote to be precise. Situated approximately 125 kilometres off the coast of Africa this little island is the vinous oddball of the Canary Islands. The landscape and vineyards in the region of La Geria are a sight to behold. The vines are planted in small craters and surrounded by a semi-circular stone walls that protect them from strong winds (see the picture above). Although the scenery has a bit of a post-apocalyptic vibe to it the nutrient-rich ashy soil, warm days and cool nights offer the vines a good environment to grow.
Vineyard work can certainly be hard but some vineyards are harder than other. At first these lovely Chasselas plantings on the shores of Lake Geneva seem absolutely fine, which for all intents and purposes they are, but that is until you start climbing them. These are some of the steepest vineyards in the world. They are so steep in fact that certain vineyards have an elevator installed for transporting harvested grapes. This particular locomotive looks like a tractor and a roller coaster decided to make a baby. It doesn’t look much safer than its’ manual alternative but it gets the job done and that’s what matters.
It’s a well known fact that winemakers and vignerons like to play with different altitudes when planting vineyards. Especially in warm regions vineyards seek refuge at higher altitudes where thermal amplitude is wider. But there are high-altitude vineyards and then there’s just bonkers. That is Colomé. This estate is located in the Upper Calchaquí Valleys in the province of Salta. Their highest vineyard, aptly named Altura Máxima, lies 3,111 metres above sea level making it the highest commercial vineyard in the world. What?! I thought that altitude was reserved for birds of prey and light aircrafts. I’m getting acute mountain sickness just thinking about harvesting grapes that high up.
Global warming is real, folks. I mean they are making wine in the Nordic countries instead of just being “hygge” with their reindeers: there are vineyards popping up all over Scandinavia. Hällåkra Vineyard in southern Skåne has one of the most northern vineyards in the world. In addition to hybrid grape varieties that are better suited for colder climate they have planted some Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris and Auxerrois Blanc. Making berry wines is quite common in the Nordics so it’s not surprising that people are getting into wine-growing as well. In Finland there’s even a small experimental vineyard at the 61st parallel north. That’s almost Santa Claus territory! The vines are grown next door to Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant which might explain the vineyard’s extreme location. Crazy Finns.