Why are vineyards always on hills?

The undulating to moderately steep terrain creates ideal vineyard sites that combine good drainage with excellent exposure to sunlight. The vines cover the slopes as far as the eye can see, extending from the wooded ridges to the picturesque villages found in the valley below. The number of New World vineyard plantations has increased almost as rapidly as the uprooting of European vineyards. Europe's 1.6 million vineyards average 0.2 km2 (49 acres) each, while the average Australian vineyard is 0.5 km2 (120 acres), providing considerable economies of scale.

For this reason, some of the best wines come from vineyards planted on fairly steep hills, conditions that would make most agricultural products uneconomical. Barnwood's Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard is 3,200 feet above sea level and definitely qualifies as a high-altitude vineyard. Therefore, if a vineyard is affected by fungal diseases, they will appear sooner and faster on roses, strategically planted at the end of the vineyard rows. Vineyards are often characterized by their terroir, a French term that is loosely translated as a sense of place that refers to the specific geographical and geological characteristics of vine plantations, which can be imparted to the wine itself.

A slight to moderate slope of 5% to 10% is desirable for vineyard sites, as it encourages the removal of denser cold air from the vineyard. So the next time you see a picture of a beautiful vineyard landscape on a slope, consider how each of these factors is contributing to the grapes and wine that will be produced. For example, Bordeaux is known for having some of the highest quality wines in the world and most of these vineyards are planted on flat terrain. The stereotypical vineyard site for wine grapes (in the Northern Hemisphere) is a hillside in a dry climate with southern exposure, good drainage to reduce unnecessary water absorption, and balanced pruning to force the vine to put more energy into the fruit, rather than the foliage.

When you view photographs (or better yet, visit) vineyards where high-quality wine grapes are grown, you will notice that there is a good proportion of these vineyards on the hillsides compared to flat plains. No two vineyards have exactly the same terroir, although any difference in the resulting wine can be virtually undetectable.