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Okay, so once we compiled the elevation model, we can create a Solar Radiation model. (I usually make it for the 15th February – the middle of harvest)
When I look at individual farms, I usually just look at differentiation and not necessarily the values (although, when analyzing block databases, you do use the values, which I will show in a later post).

Let’s have a look at this farm:

This represents a lot of different varieties, but in order to keep it a bit simpler, I decided to divide the varieties into origin.

Now let’s look at the Solar Radiation of the farm

Farm_SolarHere we have the Solar Radiation of the entire property. It is clear that there are big differences between blocks, but look closely and you will even see differences IN blocks. So, let’s break it down:

We see Rhône varieties on “cooler” and “warmer” parts, same with the rest of the varieties. In my experience, in the Coastal Region of South Africa, wine made from the Rhône variety Shiraz tend to have more dark fruit in the “warmer” areas, and more white pepper spice in the “cooler” areas (elevation also plays a role). Also, production tend to be higher in the “warmer” areas compared to the “cooler” areas.
If you have a look at the blocks encircled, you will see Shiraz in bright blue, yellow and red areas. Each area will create a different wine. Each block will have different accumulated solar units throughout the season due to the Slope and Aspect differences, which creates the unique solar radiation.


Looking at the Bordeaux reds, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec, they tend to create wines with less herbaceous flavours on the “warmer” areas and have more mint and grassy flavours on the “cooler” slopes.
The same goes for Sauvignon blanc. The blue regions will produce wines with more green pepper and asparagus flavours and the red regions will create wines with more tropical flavours.
This is even more evident when you start comparing Solar Radiation between regions, say Darling vs Paarl, or Durbanville vs Stellenbosch.
This is what excites me about this technology. You are able to create “virtual styles” before you even plant a vineyard! You can predict, to a very big extent, what style of wine will be produced on each area.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is the Alpha and Omega, but it sure as hell delivers brilliant results. Yes the influence of the ocean plays an integral part, yes soils play a massive part, and yes, the canopy management plays an enormous role, but with GIS we can model, predict and replicate certain wine styles and we can start to understand our terroir a lot better.
I think that is enough for one day, think about what I just told you, and stay tuned for more on GIS…

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