A vintager harvests Muscat grapes in the southern French town of Rivesaltes. The changing climate may force the French to change their strict system for producing wines. Raymond Roig / AFP / Getty Images

By Marie Doezema
1 January 2013

PARIS, France (Global Post) – From rising shorelines to devastating hurricanes, the visible effects scientists say climate change is wreaking on daily life no longer surprise many people around the world.

The French have their own take on just how radically life may change.

“In 20 years, the English will be making Grenache from Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” says Herve Lethielleux, co-owner of L’Etiquette, a wine boutique in central Paris, about a wine variety from subtropical southeastern France.

That’s because the changing climate is affecting the delicate balance of weather, soil and other factors that are central to the production one of their main commodities, something that’s already had a visible effect elsewhere around the globe.

“If you look at Tasmania, it was too cool to grow grapes 25 to 40 years ago,” says Gregory Jones, a research climatologist at Southern Oregon University, about the wine-producing region of Australia. “Today, it’s clearly much more suitable.” […]

Lethielleux says many of the winemakers with whom he works have been documenting gradual but persistent changes in climate over the past decades — and noting increasingly earlier harvest dates with growing alarm. “The grapes just aren’t ripening properly,” he adds. […]

The changing environment is starting to shake a system that’s been central to European wine for centuries. “Europe has historically been about regional identities based on varieties of wines and particular styles,” says Jones, a specialist in the study of climate structure and suitability for viticulture.

“Those that have adaptive capacity in the face of climate change are going to be much more able to adapt across a range of different climate futures,” he adds.

As this year showed, it’s not only warmer temperatures and earlier harvests that are affecting wine, but more volatile weather in general.

“This is a bad year — a lot of disease, a lot of rain, a late spring and a summer that never arrived — and it was dreadful with hail,” Lethielleux says. “The grapes are all stressed: They’re full of sugar, but they’re not ripe.”

Weather fluctuation of more than “two or three times more than what you’re used to” may jeopardize the entire French viniculture system, Jones says, adding that the main threat is the combination of factors. [more]

Climate change threatens French wine


  1. Anonymous said...

    The problem is not climate change: it is our inability to change. Wine growing areas in France are the result of over 3,000 years of evolution with warm periods, little ice ages and diseases wreaking havoc in the vineyards. Whole areas where swiped clean and replanted over the years, others were not, resulting in the current geography. But it's a moving landscape unlike our "appellation" and the economic system behind. A warmer or dryer weather will benefit some areas just as the opposite would benefit others. Just as an example, the Jura region hardly produce any wine nowadays although it was 200 years ago. Some warming would help replant the hills east of Bourgogne where conditions are similar if cooler for the time being. As for Kent, the temperature may be right but it's always been up to a point; certainly warmer than the Champagne or Alsace area. The problem is humidity and that doesn't seems to be improving in any way, quite the opposite in fact.  

  2. Anonymous said...

    So... the solution is for the winery to pick up and move? What do the millions in Pakistan, India and Africa do? Move to Kent I suppose.  


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