Leading figures in the French wine producing communities are urging the French government to push for a strong agreement at the United National climate summit in Copenhagen this December. Their motivation is that failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is estimated to devastate their sector in the coming years.
“As flagships of our common cultural heritage, elegant and refined, French wines are today in danger,” 50 leading names from the world of French wine and food wrote in an open letter in the 12 August in the French newspaper “Le Monde.” The letter went on to describe that “marked by higher alcohol levels, over-sunned aromatic ranges and denser textures, our wines could lose their unique soul.” Among the signatories to the letter were: Marc Veyrat, a chef with three Michelin stars and Franck Thomas, who was voted the best sommelier in the world. “We will have new wine-producing regions in zones where one doesn’t normally cultivate vineyards like in Brittany and Normandy,” said Jean-Pierre Chaban, a climatologist at France’s National Institute for Scientific Research. “It will spread to Great Britain. One can imagine vineyards in southern Sweden and Scotland.”
And well…According to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, there are now 416 vineyards in England and there are 2,732 acres of vines under cultivation – an increase of 45 per cent in the past four years.
The “World Conference on Climate Change and Wine” took place in Barcelona during February 2008. During the conference over 350 wine producers from 36 countries learned that wine production indeed emits large quantities of CO2 gases. Tony Sharley, a company scientist for Banrock Station Wine in Australia (and lauded for their sustainable techniques), taught the group that “the reforestation of areas close to the vineyards” may also help reduce the carbon footprint.
But many producers are skeptical of how much good reforestation can really do. “The consequences of global warming are already being felt. Harvest season already comes ten days earlier than before in almost all wine regions,” warned French expert Bernard Seguin.
Fine French wines are produced in small territories and taste depends strongly on factors such as mineral content of the soil. For example, a Burgundy produced in California will not taste nor smell like a Burgundy from Burgundy. Many of the vines in production are old and will not produce satisfactory wine when they are young. Thus, replanting the same varieties further north will not produce the same superior product.
While admitting that some French regions, such as Bordeaux, Alsace and Moselle, were “were making wines near their climactic limit,” wine-maker Jacques Lurton added there was “still room for maneuver.”
Indeed, he predicted a change in style of wine over the next 20 years, with perhaps a Bordeaux Cabernet Sauvignon becoming closer to those wines currently being made in the Napa Valley, California.
Yes, as the French winemakers and chefs warned in the open letter, “our [French] wines could lose their souls” if action is not taken to halt climate change.
Though much of the letter (original available here) addressed to French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, read poetically, there is a very real call to action. The signatories want the government to push for a global deal to cut industrialized countries’ greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 and set up “solid aid mechanisms” for developing countries.
Though this issue has been brought to the forefront in the recent month due to a publication by Greenpeace, the concern and the statistics to back it up are not entirely new.