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French wines and climate change

Grape growers adjusted their 2022 practices amid a series of heat waves, combined with lack of rain and severe drought that hit most of Europe. In the Bordeaux region, in southwestern France, giant wildfires destroyed large areas of pine forests (click here to see video about France's “colossal" production losses and know about the joint statement of several agricultural federations requesting for help). It did not rain from the end of June until mid-August. As a result, the wine industry had to adapt and harvests began on Aug. 16. In the 1970s, harvests started around mid-September.

Further south, harvests also started weeks earlier than normal to save shriveling and scorched grapes. In the southwestern Languedoc-Roussillon, they kicked off the harvest period at the end of July. In Haute-Corse, the northern part of Corsica, they began harvesting at the beginning of August. Production is expected to be 10% to 20% lower mostly due to smaller grapes or burned by the sun. This includes regions also in Italy, Spain and Portugal.

Vines that are several years old have deep roots that allow them to draw water from far underground and endure drought without suffering too much. But this year, with some plots heavily suffering with leaves falling, a practice banned in Bordeaux was exceptionally allowed: watering adult vines.

Paradoxically, producers are hopeful of increased quality. The season produced excellent healthy and well balanced grapes, despite lower yields. The hot, dry weather also prevented vines from getting diseases such as mildew. The 2022 vintage may be one of the best.

Nevertheless, French vintners worry that frost and violent hailstorms will happen more often (as we posted on April 2021), representing a significant threat, specially for smaller producers. “I don’t know a single winegrower who doesn’t believe in climate change,” says Nathalie Ollat, an expert from the French agricultural research institute INRAE.

She also adds an interesting information. “France has about 400 grape varieties but it uses barely a third of them”. Varieties like Jacquère, Mondeuse Noire and Viognier are coming back. According to the winegrower Nicolas Gonnin from Alpine French region of Isère, “We have to rely on the diversity of grape varieties on offer to fight against climate change. In the past, people understood that well and would grow a multitude of grape varieties, all with different characteristics. This approach will allow us to keep production going in the face of frost, drought and heatwaves.” Bordeaux is evaluating new varieties, not only from France but also from countries like Spain and Portugal. Not to mention hybrid grape varieties, genetically modified in the laboratory.

French wine industry is going to be completely different by 2050.

Click on the image below for an Associated Press article and here for a complimentary one from France24


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“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”

“I am among those who think that science has great beauty”

Madame Marie Curie (1867 - 1934) Chemist & physicist. French, born Polish.

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