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Climate Change Effects on Wine

Our world is getting warmer and our weather more extreme and unpredictable. The adverse effects of Climate Change are wide reaching, and well known. But how many of us have thought about its effect on wine? Many of you may have noticed how alcohol levels in wine have increased. Finding a 12% Vol wine is certainly a lot harder than it used to be; the average now days being 13.5%-14%. What will it be in 20 years, I wonder? And what are the implications? Imagine being a burgundy vineyard owner. You are already noticing the grapes are ripening earlier. Naturally there has always been vintage variation, it`s one of the things which makes wine interesting. Just take 2014 Chablis over 2015 as an example: the former 2014, pale, lean, fresh and minerally; the latter 2015, rounder, richer, more yellow. The extended sunshine days in 2015 changed the wine unrecognisably, in my mind losing its distinctive Chablis character – the flinty-mineral edge which goes so well with oysters. Still perfectly lovely, but not the same. Now add another degree or two to the land mass of the area – Global Warming – will it taste like Chablis at all? As burgundy vineyard owner you can mitigate the warming effects to a degree with pruning and canopy change, and by picking the fruit early; in the winery you might even be able to add acidity to the fermenting juice, to compensate for the acidity which was burnt off in the vineyard. But just how much tinkering can you do? Is it possible even that someday the temperatures will be too high for the successful production of burgundy as we know it, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes having lost their cool-climate finesse? No doubt by then replaced by new grape varieties better suited to warmer climates? Why, Climate Change could potentially turn the wine world on its head! One possible winner in the medium-term is England. As burgundy vineyard owner you might well be wise to up sticks and grow your Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes there instead!

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