Bordeaux Wines Heating Up

William Lyons has an interesting and thought provoking article on the implications of not just drought on the character of French wine, but of climate change too. Using the hot 2003 vintage as a jumping off point, and looking at an unusually dry March, Lyons and his interviewees discuss Bordeaux that is bigger, softer, higher in alcohol…essentially, more New World in style.

In one very interesting statistic, Lyons quotes a Greg Jones, a Southern Oregon University Researcher who is predicting a 4 degree F. rise in temperature in Bordeaux. This kind of temperature increase fundamentally changes the region’s terroir. It makes me wonder, if this temperature change happens and the wines are affected, essentially becoming riper, hotter, fleshier, does this mean the traditional model for Bordeaux–more restrained, more elegant, more subtle wines–would no longer me an accurate portrayal of the terroir?

Climate change also gets me thinking about which wine regions benefit. I think British Columbia surely does. Just a bit more solar radiation up there means the ability to grown more kinds of grapes to ripeness. Oregon might benefit too, leading to an equaling of vintages. And depending on your taste, I think a warmer climate probably helps Alsace and Germany too. California? I’m not sure any significant increase in temperature helps here. At least not in most regions.

But it’s a complicated issue. What global temperature increases means is changes in the character of wines in specific regions and a rethinking of which grapes work best   .

Posted In: Terroir


3 Responses

  1. Peter Finkelstein - April 3, 2005

    Why assume that wines benefit from becoming hot weather climates. What makes a great region ideal is that it is at the limits of maturation for the grape variety or varieties that dominate that region. Turning everything into California is not an amelioration.

  2. tom - April 3, 2005

    I think some regions might benefit from warming up a bit. Of course others would suffer, it’s true.
    I don’t think California would beneift. I guess we’ll just have to wait a few decades or so to see.

  3. Peter Finkelstein - April 4, 2005

    Which regions would benefit from a warming-up?
    Should those regions also change the grape varieties they currently have to accomodate global warning.

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