Much has been made about the mythic wind of France known as the Mistral, so often cited as the reason many French wines are so delicious. Like most people, we idealize this wind as more of a breeze, something that lightly flutters the vines, while softly blowing through the vineyard. But a light breeze the Mistral is definitely not. This is a wind capable of reaching speeds of over 90 kilometers an hour, blowing over everything in its path. Yet even with its potential for destruction, it is a vital component to the French wine regions of Provence, The Rhone and even parts of the Languedoc. Without it, their wines might not taste nearly as good.
When high pressure systems meet low pressure ones, the winds begin, starting in the north and gaining force and speed as the get closer and closer to the Mediterranean coast. While these winds may rip up a vine or two or fell a branch they also provide great benefits to the grapes. One of those main positive benefits is their impact on the climate. The winds are so strong, they rid the area of virtually all cloud cover, ensuring bright, sunny days that are perfect for ripening fruit. In addition, the winds help to normalize temperatures, ensuring it is neither too cold, nor too hot for the grapes to do their thing.
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The Mistral is also great for preventing grape rot; thanks to the drying properties of the wind, even after a rain, the vines don’t stay damp for long, as the moisture gets taken care of by the “breeze.”
So the next time you enjoy a nice glass of rosé from Provence, thank the Mistral, and be glad you’re not standing on top of Mont Ventoux!