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Global Warming Could Be Good News for French Winemakers

According to new research published in the Nature Climate Change journal, recent increases in temperature are helping French vineyards to produce better wine.

by Phoebe Hurst
Mar 22 2016, 1:00pm

From disappearing avocados and stressed cows to dwindling cod populations, global warming is already fucking with what we put on our plates.

But there is one area of food and drink production that could stand to benefit from our reliance on fossil fuels and factory farming. According to new research published in the Nature Climate Change journal, recent changes in climate mean that French vineyards are producing better wine.

Every cloud, eh?

Analysing weather data and vineyard records dating back to 1600, researchers from Harvard and NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies found that wine grapes in France are now being harvested an average of two weeks earlier. This is significant because in the wine world, early-ripening grapes mean higher quality vintages.

READ MORE: Climate Change Might Be Good For Quebec Winemakers

These early harvests could be down to the 1.5 degrees Celsius-rise in temperature France has seen during the 20th century, which has meant that late-season droughts—usually what helps heighten temperature enough to pass the early-harvest threshold—are no longer required.

Lead author of the study and climate scientist at the Goddard Institute Benjamin Cook explained: "Now, it's become so warm thanks to climate change, grape growers don't need drought to get these very warm temperatures. 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."

Such human-induced increases in temperatures have also impacted wine production in regions not traditionally known for their grapes. In southern England, vineyards are producing sparkling wines that rival Champagne and Quebec's winemakers are welcoming warmer winters free of the dreaded vine-killing frosts.

While early and more frequent harvests could be good news for aspiring English and Canadian winemakers—as well as the vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy where the researchers based their study—let's not get too excited. Cook also notes that in 2003, an extremely dry growing season led to one of France's earliest harvests on record, with growers picking grapes several weeks earlier than usual.

The wine, however, wasn't great.

READ MORE: English Sparkling Wine Is the New Champagne

Cook said: "The wine quality was kind of middling. That suggests that after a certain point, it could just get to be so warm, and the harvest so early, that you move into a situation where the old rules no longer apply."

Other studies have also questioned the impact of increased temperature on winemaking, with some warning that vineyards may need to move to higher latitudes to escape the heat. Other research from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory even suggests that global warming could make it impossible for pinot noir grapes to be grown in Burgundy.

At least we know Scotland's winemakers are working to pick up the slack.

Tagged:
Munchies
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FRANCE
GLOBAL WARMING
climate change
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NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies
Nature Climate Change