If, like me you enjoy imbibing with Bacchus (a lot!) then you may, in years to come; have to change from quaffing your favourite white Burgundy for something a little bit more off-the wall. Why? Well the reason is that due to Global Warming grape vines are beginning to struggle with increasing fluctuations in the weather. It is thought that in decades to come through rises in global temperatures the production of wine, will in many wine growing regions cease. In those countries that are already suffering the symptoms of these variations this malady is irreversible. Experts have observed that the flowering of buds along with the earlier ripening of grapes is affecting the crucial slow development that vines need. As a symptom of these changes in our climate harvests are now taking place earlier than previous years.
Wine regions that predominately grow perhaps only 1 or 2 varieties (I’m looking at you Burgundy!) might have to diversify and introduce other sustainable grape varieties into their vineyards in order to sustain themselves. Chardonnay, the classic white grape of Burgundy may in the future face being uprooted and replaced in its spiritual home, Chablis with perhaps either Viura or Albariño grapes. France, Germany, Italy and Spain produce around 80% of all the wine we consume from perhaps only 8 – 10 grape varieties, world-wide. Yet the grape palette with which these countries have to offer to us as consumers is enormous. Italy alone has more than 1000 indigenous grape varieties the majority of which many of us have never heard of. Yet they are being grown, harvested, fermented and bottled but then never appear on the shelves in our shops.
So why do we never see these wines then Colin?
Conceivably it could be through both a combination of bureaucracy and reticence by the multiple retailers that these wines are never given the full investment they require to bring them to the market-place. The big chain suppliers, who, let’s face it; dictate what we drink, have their shareholders and investors to answer to if their investment is not successful. Speculating in weird and wonderful indigenous grapes from other countries is for them a very dangerous business. Get it wrong and you could be sitting on a small wine lake that will be of no interest to anyone. I have total respect for the small Independent wine merchant who wishes to push the envelope and introduce their customers to new and exciting grapes. These independent trail blazers and champions of the unknown grape should be supported. However, it will take a national or international retailer such as the CO-OP etc to change people’s wine purchasing habits.
“Take another glass of wine, and excuse my mentioning that society as a body does not expect one to be so strictly conscientious.” Great Expectations, Charles Dickens.
Maybe, our palates are perhaps just not ready yet. We have adjusted our palates to the vanilla and coconut flavours of Chardonnay. The cassis and chocolate profile with which we associate Cabernet Sauvignon. Do we really wish to replace our favourite Chardonnay just yet? Are we ready to embrace such wonderful grapes as the Greek varietal Malagousia or the magnificently fruity Godello from Spain. These grapes and many more besides are out there, available to us right now! They are more inclined to the harsher climates and drought affected conditions we are only now beginning to experience. Is it just that our palates have yet to properly explore them, or are we as followers of Dionysus content with only ever experiencing chocolate and vanilla? I think not!
So, what are we going to do when the vineyards dry up and the grapes wither on the vine?
One of the main problems is that many wine regions (take note France!) find themselves restricted by what they can grow, and this attitude should be consigned to the dustbin of history. The winegrowers of today are facing a greater threat to their industry than their forefathers did and this should be accepted (I’m sorry President Trump but it is happening!). I’m not calling for the Appellation Controlee or the Denominazione de Origne Controllata e Guarantita rule books to be torn up, more, a very intensive re-evaluation.
With the uncertainty that Global Warming has upon our fragile climate, not only will we have to begin harvesting grapes earlier but the geography of the areas will also be subject to change. Germany, already the most northerly of the grape growing countries may find that due to an adjustment in climate, it may no longer be able to sustain growing Riesling. With a change in direction to the west, the Gulf stream will most certainly affect the viticulture of Bordeaux and the Loire valleys. This change in the Gulf stream will result in longer harsher winters and will therefore destroy the wine making industry in those regions.
For those countries and regions that are already suffering from the effects of Global warming then the future does indeed look bleak. Without any form of experimentation into replacement varieties then their respective wine industries may indeed shrivel up and die.
There are some fantastic grape varietals out there available to us. Is now not time to begin a campaign for Mavrodaphne or Txakoli and the many other weird and wonderful vitis vinifera out there to be made available to us. So, to paraphrase the infamous speech from the 1976 film Network-
‘I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your corkscrews out, and yell: ‘I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take this dumbing down of my taste-buds anymore!’
Would we not indeed then have some very grape expectations ahead of us!