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Tasting the effects of climate change

Marketplace Staff Jan 2, 2007

Tasting the effects of climate change

Marketplace Staff Jan 2, 2007


SCOTT JAGOW: 2006 might turn out to be a very good year for wine. It was warm, and grapes tend to like that. But in France, some people aren’t celebrating. They’re worried it’s gonna get so hot, a la global warming, that winemakers will have to start planting further north. In this report for our Sustainability Desk, John Laurenson visits one of the wine regions: Burgundy.

JOHN LAURENSON: Grape-pickers snip bunches of fat, black grapes from the vines and toss them into buckets. These grapes have ripened two weeks earlier than they used to and contain much more sugar and, therefore, much more potential alcohol.

In Burgundy, so far at least, that’s cause for celebration.

DENIS FETZMANN: Raspberries and strawberries, black current. . . you have no harsh tannins, it’s perfect!

Denis Fetzmann, wine-maker at the Louis Latour estate, says he no longer has to add sugar to get his wine up to strength.

FETZMANN: Warming gives better ripeness for the French wines now. And if we have better ripeness, better quality in the grapes, we’ll have better wines. So why to be with the tears when conditions are good like that?

Unfortunately, in the long-term, there are good reasons to be pessimistic. The French government has set up an observatory to monitor the effect of climate change on the wine industry. Bernard Seguin is one of its experts.

BERNARD SEGUIN: If we consider for instance Champagne, Alsace and so on, they will have the mean temperature of the south of France now because one degree corresponds more or less to 200 kilometers towards the north. So you may imagine that the quality of the wines will be seriously affected.

And the whole system of classing wines by region will be upset.

Mister Seguin says big Champagne companies are already investing in the South of England. These investments, he says, will give them the option 30, 40, 50 years down the line, of growing grapes there.

But Burgundy winemaker Denis Fetzmann doesn’t believe that’ll mean less wine in France.

Growers can let the vines grow taller and leave more foliage to provide shade. They can plant higher up slopes where it’s cooler and harvest earlier.

And, if there’s too much alcohol, says the Frenchman with a touch of malice, they could copy the Californians and add water.

In Burgandy, I’m John Laurenson for Marketplace.

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