Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Climate Change and Wine in France

France's culture de la vigne is as much a product of history as an accident of geography. Since the beginning of winemaking in France, the French climate has been perfect to support a variety of grapes. The best wines in the world are made in France. Now, this is threatened, many wine growers feel, by climate change. In 2003, which was a very hot year, many feel that wines lost their identity and, for example, wines from the Loire valley in the northern part of France tasted like wines from the Rhône in the South.

Reflecting these concerns, in August of this year, 50 of France's top chefs, sommeliers and wine producers wrote to Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, arguing that climate change was threatening the survival of the wine industry and pushing for France to demand a 40 per cent cut in global carbon emissions by 2020 at this December’s Copenhagen conference. Climate change, they wrote, was threatening the soul of French wines.

Now, Greenpeace, has presented on September 4 under the heading: Rouge Alert: Climate Change Threatens French Wine a detailed study of the impact of climate change on wine in France. The study details how French wine production is a climatically sensitive endeavour - and shows that it is at great risk from environmental change.

The same day, the Financial Times carried an interesting article on the subject.

And I detected a new book by Stuart Pigott on wine regions beyond the traditional bounderies of wine growing, from a German perspective of course:

Stuart Pigott (September 2009), Wein Weit Weg – Wine far away: Expeditionen von Norwegen ueber den Kaukasus nach China.

It is a book, as Pigott puts it, about the wine regions of the 21st century.... Norway and China?


  1. Hello Dr. Schiller,

    I have been researching and writing about this issue for years with my material being the spring board for the discussion on the topic globally. It is good to see that the French have got on board finally. The challenge that the wine industry has is adaptation while all of the mitigating efforts are being haggled about politically. Unfortunately the French system of regionality and protection of products from those regions, does not allow for creative and effective adaptation. Climate science currently says that anything short of rapid, global reductions of CO2 emissions on the order of 50% or more will not likely change the current climate trajectory. Therefore, adaptation is the key and the French government needs to allow the wine industry to adapt as needed.

    Greg Jones
    Southern Oregon University

  2. Hi Greg,

    thanks for your comments. Does this not mean that well respected wine regions will go under and new wine regions will emerge? There is only so much the wine makers in the current wine regions can do, I believe.



  3. Hello Christian,

    The adaptation ability is based upon plant genetics, vineyard management adjustments, and winery technologies. My sense is that there is a certain amount of adaptive capacity for each wine region and variety, but that at some point both economic and plant system sustainability will be passed and either the region shifts varieties (plus marketing and identity) or goes under. Cool climate regions have more to gain, while the already warm regions have much more to lose. And yes, new regions will emerge.


  4. http://www.wiwo.de

    Die Wirtschaftswoche vom 16.10.2009 hat einen interessanten Artikel mit der Ueberschrift "Ende der Weinkultur"