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]