Variety and climatic effects on quality scores in the Western US winegrowing regions

Wine quality is strongly linked to climate. Quality scores are often driven by climate variation across different winegrowing regions and years, but also influenced by other aspects of terroir, including variety. While recent work has looked at the relationship between quality scores and climate across many European regions, less work has examined New World winegrowing regions. Here we used scores from three major rating systems (Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator) combined with daily climate and phenology data to understand what drives variation across wine quality scores in major regions of the Western US, including regions in California, Oregon and Washington. We examined effects of variety, region, and in what phenological period climate was most predictive of quality. As in other studies, we found climate, based mainly on growing degree day (GDD) models, was generally associated with quality—with higher GDD associated with higher scores—but variety and region also had strong effects. Effects of region were generally stronger than variety. Certain varieties received the highest scores in only some areas, while other varieties (e.g., Merlot) generally scored lower across regions. Across phenological stages, GDD during budbreak was often most strongly associated with quality. Our results support other studies that warmer periods generally drive high quality wines, but highlight how much region and variety drive variation in scores outside of climate. 

Authors: G. Legault, P. Autio, F. Jones and E. Wolkovich 

Department of Forest & Conservation Sciences. University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Email: e.wolkovich@ubc.ca

Keywords: wine quality scores, Pacific Norwest, California, growing degree days, phenology

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