Global Warming Could Be Leading to Better French Wine

March 22, 2016, 9:10 PM UTC
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY LAURENT ABADIE - A close up picture shows a grape during the first harvest of the Chateau Reault vineyard (formely Chateau Reault la Graviere) by the vineyard co-owners on September 29, 2012 in Paillet, western France. The co-owners joined a property sharing group or GFA (Groupe Foncier Agricole) for 1500 euros, an investment that equates to 165 vines and 36 bottles per year labelled with each purchaser?s own name. AFP PHOTO NICOLAS TUCAT (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/GettyImages)
Photograph by Nicolas Tucat—AFP/Getty Images

Among all the global warming effects scientists have been warning us about for decades, one of them could have been increasing the quality of French wine.

Higher temperatures in France have condensed the usual growth cycles for wine grapes, and have resulted in earlier harvests, a condition that is usually associated with higher-quality wine, according to a study released on Monday in the Nature Climate Change journal.

“There is a very clear signal that the earlier the harvest, the much more likely that you’re going to have high-quality wines,” Benjamin Cook, one of the study’s co-authors and a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told NPR.


Many researchers have been studying the record-setting temperatures the world has been experiencing in the last two years. While scientists have warned of impending rising sea levels and killer storms as a consequence, one study has looked at wine grapes to find evidence of increasing temperatures.

The grapes in France are especially useful for climatologists due to “terroir”: a combination of environmental factors that go into producing top-notch wine. The grapes used are highly sensitive to changes in temperature, and traditionally, vintners work around a wet season and a subsequent drought period to mature the fruit. The wetter and hotter the seasons, the more conducive for the wine’s terroir.

However, in a look at wine grape harvest dates from 1600 to 2007, researchers have found that from 1981 onwards, drought periods no longer coincide with harvest timing. Instead, greenhouse gas emissions have resulted in the high temperatures needed for early harvests without drought. “Climate change means the grapes are maturing faster,” Dr. Elizabeth Wolkovich, a scientist from Harvard University and a co-author, told The Guardian.

The good times for wine-lovers may not last, scientists warned, as temperatures could rise to a level that it does not produce better wine. ‘There is a threshold we will probably cross in the future where higher temperatures will not produce higher quality,” said Wolkovich.

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