Altitude is now a frequent topic of conversation among wine lovers and an increasingly popular selling point on bottle labels.

So that the subject doesn't pass you by, we'll help you understand this interest in vineyards planted on higher ground. Discover in this article the impact that altitude can have on grapes and its influence on the production of wines with distinct profiles and characteristics

Altitude: a concept not measured in metres

First clue: in the world of wine, altitude should not be seen as a strict, quantitative criterion. This is a concept that is not measured in metres, but rather through its ability to impact the final characteristics of a wine, giving it uniqueness.
Second clue: high altitude regions can have a huge variety of terroirs, from steep slopes, deep valleys or high plateaus. This results in a wide range of different soils, varying degrees of sun exposure and different microclimates. Thus, the effect of altitude on vines and wine cannot be perceived in isolation, but is linked to other factors such as latitude, geography or the geological aspects of the terrain.
One thing is certain: any wine that expresses the condition of altitude is the result of a challenging process that requires the winemaker to pay close attention to the nature of the site and adapt the cultivation of the vines to the respective conditions in which they will grow.

The influence of altitude on vineyards

Vines planted on high ground face challenging climatic conditions, which have a significant impact on the ripening process of the grapes.

In general, these are the factors that play the most important role:

> Low temperatures

As we go up in altitude, the average temperature becomes lower and the nights become cooler. This allows the grapes to ripen more slowly, in a longer and more uniform process, preserving their natural acidity. This makes it possible to obtain fresher, more balanced wines with a lower alcohol content.

> More intense sun exposure

Vineyards at altitude are exposed to more hours of sunlight. To protect themselves from the intensity of the radiation, the grapes react defensively and develop darker, thicker skins. This results in sharply coloured wines with well-defined tannins, which give them greater structure and longevity.

> A marked temperature range

The significant difference in temperature between day and night is a characteristic of the altitude. The high temperatures during the day favour the ripening of the fruit. At dusk, the lower temperatures soften the heat shocks and balance the ripening process. This thermal variation creates unique conditions for the production of more complex and aromatic wines.

> The scarcity of water resources

In steep, rocky hillside terrain, vines often struggle to find the water and nutrients they need to thrive. As such, they develop deeper roots, extracting minerals and other elements from the soil that will later give the wine a personality specific to the local terroir.
The energy the vines put into this search for vital resources ultimately has an influence on their yield. As a rule, the fruit produced is smaller and in less quantity, but in return the grapes gain more character and a greater concentration of aromas and flavours.

The effects of altitude on wines

These circumstances of the higher areas end up bringing distinctive and very obvious characteristics to the wines.

In general, they give rise to complex, well-balanced wines with soft tannins and an intensity of flavour. Freshness, a marked minerality and vibrant acidity are other traits common to these wines, making them perfect for diverse gastronomic pairings.

Different ways of expressing altitude

Wines produced at higher altitudes are a growing trend among a public that values fresher, more elegant and balanced proposals, where the local viticulture imprint is evident.
As already mentioned, however, there is no single formula for expressing altitude. It all depends on the terroir, but also on the producer.

At Sogevinus, we combine the unique richness of the Douro hillsides with five centuries of tradition, knowledge and labour that allow us to make the most of what nature has to offer. From this magical combination, surprising proposals emerge. Explore our  UVA Wine Shop and discover these unique experiences.