Climate Change Giving the World ‘Better French Wine’

winegrapes Jeff PachoudAFPGetty Images
Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty

A changing climate might improve French wines, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

That’s because the warmer conditions that allow French vineyards to ripen earlier are becoming more frequent, leading to better yields of the tiny sweet fruit.

According to the authors of the paper, climate change has “decoupled” cycles of drought from early grape harvests in the country’s wine regions.

“Before 1980, you basically needed a drought to generate the heat to get a really early harvest,” author, Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said in the study. “But since 1980, it’s been so warm because of climate change that you can get the hot summers and really early harvests without needing a drought.”

Indeed, The Guardian reported that records going back 500 years prove harvests are happening two weeks earlier on average than previously.

Harvard University’s Dr Elizabeth Wolkovich said there is good and bad news in the study.

“There are two big points in this paper. The first is that harvest dates are getting much earlier, and all the evidence points to it being linked to climate change. Especially since 1980, when we see a major turning point for temperatures in the northern hemisphere, we see harvest dates across France getting earlier and earlier,” she said.

“The bad news,” Wolkovich added, “is that if we keep warming the globe we will reach a tipping point.”

“The trend, in general, is that earlier harvests lead to higher-quality wine, but you can connect the dots here … we have several data points that tell us there is a threshold we will probably cross in the future where higher temperatures will not produce higher quality,” she concluded.

This new planting and harvesting cycle, the study insists, means more and earlier harvests are becoming common, leading to more of the sort of grapes that the wine industry in France likes the most.

While it is still true that every year’s harvest is not necessarily ideal for the wine industry, the new situation “suggests” that “the old rules no longer apply.”

And as PBS recently claimed, the changing weather patterns are altering the growing seasons for other wine regions, as well. One paper published in 2013, PBS said, warned grape growers to move vineyards to higher latitudes and higher elevations to respond to growing temperatures.

But while the study claims conditions in Europe may be a boon for the wine industry, the opposite could be true for California’s wine-making regions. In the end, there just wasn’t enough data to make definitive forecasts, PBS said.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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