What effect does wind have on wine grapes?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What effect does wind have on wine grapes? Is it true that it can improve flavor concentration by thickening the grape skins?

—David, New York

Dear David,

Wind can have both positive and negative effects on wine grapes, and it certainly qualifies as one of the many elements of terroir. Wind exposures, along with the orientation of the sun and other geographical considerations, are often taken into account when planting a new vineyard and determining the directions of the vine rows.

In warmer climates, winds can be valued for their cooling effects, especially late in the growing season when that cooler weather can help slow the ripening process, giving the grapes more time to develop flavors. In wet or humid weather, wind helps eliminate moisture and can prevent mildew. And wind can also prevent or minimize frost damage in the spring or fall. (Vintners will also sometimes set up strong electric fans to blow across endangered sections of vineyards when there is a frost threat.)

It’s also true, as you suggest, that some vintners say that the wind can help thicken a grape’s skin, and thicker skins can result in more concentrated flavors in the wine.

Wind can also be problematic, however. Warm winds can dry out soils and vines, and strong spring winds are especially dangerous to vulnerable young vine shoots and flowers.

—Dr. Vinny

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