Great article on climate change and wine

By Tobias Webb

This article from Andrew Jefford on is well worth a read. He discusses some of the predictions and possible trends around wine and climate change. Well worth a read.

Despite the potential doom and gloom around this subject, (it’s really really not a good thing, let’s face it) he does have some positive-ish predictions which I tend to agree with. Along the lines that adaptation will be more successful than some might suggest.

A few sample quotes:

“Recent climatic data continues to startle: 2014, according to the World Meterological Organisation’s latest annual statement on the status of the global climate, was the warmest year since records began in the mid-1800s, meaning that 14 of the 15 hottest recorded years during the same 150-year period have come since 2000. Mean global temperatures are expected to pass the significant 1˚C threshold above pre-industrial levels during 2015, according to the UK’s Met Office.”

“Syrah was, for many years, also planted across Languedoc as an ‘improving variety’, but conditions in some key zones are too hot for it now, and the results increasingly kinky and overblown. Languedoc regional pioneer Olivier Jullien has even given up with Grenache – because, he says, new climate realities means that ripeness comes with a 15% abv price tag.”

“Harvest dates have advanced by two or three weeks in every wine-growing region over the past half-century; alcohol levels for many classic red wines are between one and two per cent higher than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, signifying (in large part) more sugar for an equivalent phenolic ripeness. Chablis once had crippling spring frosts every other year; frost alarms rarely wake Chablis growers up in the night now. England was formerly considered too cool for Champagne’s triumvirate of principal grape varieties; no one would argue that case today.”

“…whatever the scenario, big changes are in the offing. ‘Given the inherent climate sensitivity of grapevines,’ the authors conclude, ‘suitable zones for their cultivation are very susceptible to small changes in climate.’ Languedoc and Roussillon, they suggested, would be badly hit, with a dramatic reduction in existing growing areas (down between 80 and 86 per cent by 2020 for Languedoc and even more for Roussillon, with the latter ceasing to be viable for viticulture at all by 2050 under one scenario); other European regions facing challenging or catastrophic outcomes include Penedès, Extremadura (Ribera de Guadiana), La Mancha and the Douro. The Southern Rhône and Provence were survivor regions, by contrast, because vineyards in both regions can move up in altitude as well as migrate north. Atlantic regions in general would initially be a ‘refugium’ for viticulture, the authors say, at least until 2050. Burgundy would have to gain altitude to survive, while Champagne and the Mosel are northerly regions which would need to move further north still.”

Read the rest here, and his final conclusions (so far)

About the author

Tobias Webb

Toby Webb is co-founder of Sustainable Wine. He is also founder of Innovation Forum, a leading platform for change in sustainable supply chains. He has spent 20+ years working in business and sustainability and has spent ten years teaching the subject at various London universities. He advises a number of companies large and small on sustainability. Businesses he has worked with include Patagonia, Interface, Bayer, SOK Group, Boots/Walgreens, Metro, Unilever, Nestle, Reckitt Benckiser, Sainsbury’s, and many others. He co-authored the UK’s national CSR strategy for David Cameron from 2006-10. He has been organising events, advising, teaching writing, blogging and podcasting on sustainable business since 2001. His (non-wine) blog is at