By: Victoria Clontz, Articles Editor
What’s eating France’s grapes? Well, perhaps consuming is a better term and the answer is climate change. Last year, an international team of scientists estimated that by 2050, some of the world’s most famous wine-making regions will shrink by nearly 70 percent.
The grape vine is particularly sensitive to climate variability and change, like many crops.
But wine producers place much more importance on quality since temperature and precipitation affects alcohol, acidity, and color.
As the world continues to warm, conditions in some areas will sour.
Signature wines produced in some of the world’s most famous regions, such as Champagne or Bordeaux, will probably lose some of their quality and character.
As the heat rises, so does the resulting wine’s alcohol content.
A warmer growing season or longer hang time on the vine produces more sugar in the grapes.
The cool conditions of the Champagne region produce low-sugar, high acid grapes that are well suited for champagne.
So what does this mean for the lovers of fine French champagne? It means that the best sparkling wines may not come from its namesake region in the future.
“Given that most grapevines produce fruit for 25 to 50 years, grape-growers and wine-makers must consider the long term when determining what to plant, where to plant, and how to manage their vineyards,” says Antonio Busalacchi, climate scientist and wine expert at the University of Maryland.
The wine sector of France is now buying up land in places like southern England as it confronts the need to simultaneously reduce risks of yield losses and continue to produce the world’s leading wines.
In fact, English sparkling wines have recently been beating champagnes at international competitions.
The soil in locations like Dover is similar to the chalky soil of the Champagne region.
This transition for grape growers, specifically the relocation of wine-makers from the Champagne region, raises an interesting question given the restrictions placed on products bearing the Champagne name by the Appellation of Controlled Origin (AOC).
AOC rules dictate that only wines produced under certain conditions in the Champagne region may bear the product name champagne versus sparkling wine.
So what will happen when the climate becomes inhospitable to the grapes used to make champagne and the traditional houses leave the region? This issue is sure to become more hotly debated as temperatures continue to rise in France.
(Jan. 24, 2014, 2:50 PM),
Vineyards Take Action as Climate Change Threatens Wine and Livelihood
(Oct. 3, 2013, 12:42 PM),
British Wine Benefits as the Climate Changes
, Dec. 14, 2013, at B1
Recognition of the Champagne Appellation
(last visited Mar. 17, 2014).