The Other Tine of the Fork: Hamptons Terroir
The Hamptons are the southern fork of wine production regions on the East End of Long Island. It is situated between the Great Peconic Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The Hamptons’ output is significantly less than its northern cousin but shows a distinctive character and profile. It not just a branch of the North Fork of Long
Island, the wines express a unique character.
The Hamptons winemaking region is approximately on the same latitude as the Portuguese city of Porto and the famous Douro River region. However, the Hamptons climate is quite dissimilar to the home of Port wines. Long Island displays a cooler maritime climate. The brutal summer heat seen in the Iberian Peninsula is tempered on the Hamptons by the Labrador Current which moves up the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Summer temperatures are mollified by the Peconic Bay to the north. These same bodies of water help to temper the effects Canadian air masses that move in during the winter.
The influence of these bodies of water help prevent late spring frosts which can kill young grape buds. The cumulative effect is the effective lengthening the growing season to approximately 210-220 day, similar to the great winemaking region of Bordeaux. Overall heat accumulation is similar to another cool winemaking area, that is, northern Sonoma County, California.
The Hamptons climate is somewhat cooler than the North Fork. It is more affected by Labrador Current and breezes coming off the ocean which causes frequent fogs in the summer. The Hamptons’ has a slightly shorter growing season and less heat, and sunshine than the North Fork. Due to these differences, and others, the Hamptons wines are more earth focused and aromatic than the riper, more fruit driven vintages from its northern neighbor. To shine in the Hamptons the wines need to be more elegantly structured and balance earth focus and higher acids prevalent in their grapes.
Bacchus doesn’t like wet feet and for wine grapes to grow well the land must provide good drainage. The land in the Hamptons is a glacial moraine. When the ice sheets of the last great ice age receded, over 10,000 years ago, all the sand, land, and rock that they had been pushing down from Canada were dumped into the Atlantic to form Long Island. Typically vineyards prefer to grow on steep hills so that rainfall can run off and not pool around the roots. Although the land on the Hamptons is fairly flat, the soil left by the glaciers: sandy and porous sedimentary loam; provides excellent drainage to make for good growing conditions in what would not obviously be good vineyard land.