As climate change shifts weather patterns across the world and causes chaos in the world’s coastal cities, there may be an unexpected benefit to the slow roasting of the Earth’s surface: better wine!
Yes, new research published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change could point to evidence of human-caused heating patterns affecting the Earth’s climate to a point where the seasonal rains that help cultivate the sugars and acids in grapes that break down into the finest of wines. The lack of these richer elements prompts earlier harvests among wine grapes, and that’s actually a positive thing for growers in the Bordeaux & Burgundy wine regions of France.
“There is a very clear signal that the earlier the harvest, the much more likely that you’re going to have high-quality wines,” Cook says.
That’s Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies, speaking with NPR about his co-authorship of this new research. He says that before the 80’s, grapes were rarely harvested early unless a drought was occuring, but over the last few decades, that’s changed.
But Cook says the traditional reasoning that hotter weather, and an earlier harvest, means better wine may only hold true to a point. He notes that in 2003 an extremely dry, warm growing season preceded one of France’s earliest harvests on record. Grape growers were harvesting their fruit in mid- to late-August — several weeks earlier than usual.
“But the wine quality was kind of middling,” Cook says. “That suggests that after a certain point, it could just get to be so warm, and the harvest so early, that you move into a situation where the old rules no longer apply.”
Regardless, it could be years before the true benefit or detriment to wine’s quality is truly felt, and winemakers will need to make tough decisions about how they’ll change their growing strategies in the face of rapid climate change.