Climate Change to Have Staggering Impact on French Wine Producing Pedigree

Climate Change to Have Staggering Impact on French Wine Producing Pedigree

Grape vine -- image CC licensed by Flickr user Philip Larson

A wine producing culture and industry that took centuries to cultivate may evaporate if nothing is done to address climate change, a new report has found.

Warmer temperatures and new diseases may displace French vineyards -- known for their prized Champagnes, Burgundies and Bordeaux -- by as much as 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) from their traditional boundaries, according to “Impacts of Climate Change on Wine in France,” a report released by Greenpeace Friday.

Wine is the country’s largest export and second biggest crop. A reflection of the region’s soil and centuries-long production know-how, the country's celebrated wines would be subjected to warmer temperatures that would significantly alter the growing season, namely early harvests.

In Burgundy, for example, the home to some of the world’s most sought-after Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, harvests are taking place between 12 and 13 days later now, compared to the 1973-1987 time frame. In some areas of Burgundy, the period of ripening to maturity is 10 days shorter.

Warmer weather may have a beneficial effect on wines “not currently of the highest quality,” but will negatively impact those already producing the best quality wines. Productivity, for example, may increase, which can damage quality, while other side effects may include excessive sugar and acidity levels.

The report uses the example of the potential impacts on the French wine industry to advocate for an international climate treaty to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. World leaders are holding a series of negotiations in a bid to reach an agreement later this year.

“Climate change will cause serious impacts in France,” the report concluded. “But the consequences of global warming will be felt even harder in other parts of the world and developing countries are already experiencing the most severe effects of global warming. While it is clear that the economic development of industrialized nations is largely responsible for climate change, emerging countries will be the most strongly hit by its impacts in the coming decades.“

French winemakers joined Greenpeace and chefs earlier this month in calling upon French President Nicolas Sarkozy to forge a strong climate change deal in Copenhagen. According to a New York Times article, some experts warn European wine makers must adapt their techniques over the next two decades to prepare for altered growing conditions.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Philip Larson.