France and Italy have long topped the wine leaderboard. But wine-makers could soon be turning to British soil to find the climate they need.
As the earth’s temperature continues to rise, the ideal conditions for growing wine grapes are shifting towards the poles.
Lee Hannah, a senior scientist at Conservation International, has produced a map showing the future of wine production according to scientific findings in relation to climate change.
The map shows renowned regions of France, Italy, Spain and Portugal as areas which will be less suitable for wine grape growing by 2050. It also shows amateur wine countries such as England and the Netherlands as suitable viniculture areas by the same year.
Click on map for larger image
This is due to predictions that the earth’s temperature will have risen by 2°C by 2050, resulting in many of the best-known wine-producing regions such as Bordeaux, the Rhône valley and Tuscany exceeding the climatic limits and producing poorer quality wine.
To get the perfect blend of sugar, tannins and acidity, grapes need to grow in a mainly dry atmosphere with a maximum temperature of around 22°C.
The French have already started planning ahead and have found that areas such as Sussex and Kent have a chalky substrate similar to that of France’s Champagne region.
According to Antionio Busalacchi, a professor at the University of Maryland, 50 per cent of England’s grape varieties consists of Chardonnay, Pinor Noir and Pinot Meunier, the main grapes of the Champagne region.
But some argue climate change is not a contributing factor, with every third year generally a ‘good year’.
If we look at statistics on some French wines, 2009 and 2010 proved to be ‘exceptional’ years for many Bordeaux wines, but so were 1989-1990. The image below does not include 1991-1994, 1987 or 1986 as the quality of the wine in those years was below average.
Click on map for larger image
* The star represents an exceptional year and an empty glass represents a very poor year.
So is climate change really having an impact on the future of wine growing locations? Or is it simply a question of the ‘good year’ pattern gradually changing?
There are nearly 400 commercial vineyards in the UK spread over a total of around 3,500 acres of land. The majority are in the southern half of England and Wales.
Wales’ oldest and largest vineyard is Glyndwr Vineyard in Cowbridge. First planted in 1982, the success of the 6,000 vines has seen their bottles on the shelves of outlets from family-run delis to national chain Waitrose. They also provide wine for the Celtic Manor Resort in Newport which hosted the 2014 NATO summit.
Glyndwr Vineyard manager, Jo Norris, does not believe climate change contributes to the quality of wine.
“We’re reliant on nice, warm, dry summers and that’s an overriding factor on how well harvest grows,” he said. “Our best year was 1992. The last two years have been particularly good although every third or fourth year tends to be not so good.”
“It’s easier to grow grapes for white and rosé than it is for red. It’s hard to get red wine from welsh vineyards as we would need drier summers to get sugar levels high enough,” he added.