French wine is benefiting from global warming at least for now | News Today Near this medieval town in southwestern France, the Château Rochebelle and its Grand Cru vines have been producing red wines under the watchful eye of the Faniest family since 1847.
The current owner, Philippe Faniest, has high hopes for his latest stock, thanks to a warming climate’s beneficial impact on the Bordeaux wine-producing district.
“The 2015 vintage is one of the very best years,” he boasted. “It will be a wine that can be kept for 30 years.”
Faniest said he also anticipates that the 2016 grapes, yet to be picked, will go down in history, too: “The 2016 vintage will be a great year because we had so much sun.”
Bordeaux’s fortunes have been on the rise in recent decades, as “good years” like 2015 have become more frequent.
That’s because warmer summers mean the fruit ripens quicker. So instead of October, the grapes can be harvested sometimes in September, which is more likely to be dry. If there are heavy rains just before or during harvest, the fruit swells and dilutes, which inevitably makes the wine less palatable, according to wine experts.
“People are very happy in Bordeaux and in vineyards all the way up to Champagne,” said Benjamin Bois, a researcher at the University of Burgundy who focuses on climate and how it effects wine production. “I wouldn’t say they’re foolish.”
The Met Office, the United Kingdom’s national weather service, said French temperatures have risen by 0.65 Fahrenheit per decade since 1960, and this warming trend is expected to continue. Beatrice Laurensan, an assistant director at the Château la Gafflière vineyard in St. Émilion, said all the 2015 vintage wine already has been sold. She added that the increasingly warmer summers have been good for the harvests.
“We don’t beg people to buy our wine. They come knocking on our door,” she bragged. “The term ‘bad vintage’ is gone.”
Still, Bois warns that while climate change may have been kind to Bordeaux wines so far, it will eventually start to push the good years further apart again as temperatures continue to rise.
To see this, Bordeaux need only look to its neighbors in the south. “Mediterranean regions, like Châteauneuf du Pape, already have water stress” because of a lack of rain, he said. Greg Jones, a wine climatologist at Southern Oregon University, said Bordeaux is living on borrowed time, although it’s difficult to pinpoint when the region’s prosperity will turn because winemakers adapt to higher temperatures and push the tipping point further into the future. After all, Châteauneuf du Pape still commands respect in the wine world.
For example, winemakers can try and shade their vines, irrigate or even smear the leaves white to reflect the solar radiation and keep the plants from absorbing the light and overheating.
Faniest said his château is already taking measures to adapt to climate change: The staff prune more leaves from the vines to decrease the amount of water the plants lose. Château la Gafflière, meanwhile, bought a ‘cold chamber’ to store the grapes immediately after they’re picked to avoid the grapes’ overexposure to the sun.
Eventually, the wineries won’t be able to push their luck any further, warned Jones. “They’ve done lots of little things,” he said. “But again we have to think about how far they can take it. If we get another two degrees Celsius by 2050, are our adaptive measures going to continue to work?”
So what’s a fan of St. Emilion red to do? Buy up bottles of 2015 and 2016 and hold on to them, advised Bois.
Marina Giuberti, a wine enthusiast who owns a small bar in Paris called Divvino, said she is looking forward to putting a few bottles aside for herself.
“I’m hoping that the quality of tannins is good — I want to taste velvety textures and fruit explosions,” she said. “I want to be able to open a bottle in 15 years time and reminisce about 2015.”