An alarming new report finds that the French winemaking industry may change forever in the coming decades.
Climate change could devastate the French wine industry, a surprising and alarming new study states.
Global warming has resulted in changing growing conditions in northern climes ever since 1980 in regions such as Champagne and Burgundy, marking a major shift in temperatures that have been stable for thousands of years, according to an Earth Institute at Columbia University statement.
Winemaking is a delicate process that requires precise ingredients and conditions. Many factors can affect a type of wine, including the grape variety, exposure to the sun, and even the soil. Some vintages require an early harvest with lots of spring rains and hot summers, and then a late drought, so any shift in climate is likely to threaten them.
Since 1980, the planet has become so warm due to climate change that grape growers haven’t relied on the drought at the end of the season. This means winemakers are moving up harvest dates by two weeks in the last 35 years or so.
This leads to some benefits for winemakers, but long-term the prospects aren’t good. At a certain point, the planet will reach a point where signature grape varietals will need to move farther and farther north in order to grow properly, meaning that Champagne grapes will need to be grown in England at some point.
“Now, it’s become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don’t need drought to get these very warm temperatures,” lead author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in the statement. “After 1980, the drought signal effectively disappears. That means there’s been a fundamental shift in the large-scale climate under which other, local factors operate.”
Added Liz Thach, a professor of management and wine business at Sonoma State University: “Some people may still be skeptical about global warming, but not anyone in the wine industry. Everyone believes it, because everyone sees it year by year–it’s here, it’s real, it’s not going away.”