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Climate change boosts UK bubbly

Wine experts warn that rising temperatures are already having an effect in Languedoc and Alsace

CLIMATE change is having a growing effect on wines across France and in the UK, where rising temperatures have seen English sparkling wine rival champagne.

Winemakers in Alsace in the northeast of France are reporting that warmer climates have already changed the aromas, balance, sugar and acidity in their wines.

And hotter, drier weather is also impacting the flavour of wines from Languedoc, resulting in more full-bodied wines with stronger alcohol content at the expense of finesse, wine makers complain.

In interviews with wine publication Decanter, experts including a sommelier, wine growing consultant and wine editor said regions which have enjoyed ideal growing conditions up to now will be the first to fall victim to rising temperatures, while overall warming will provide opportunities for other countries which had previously inhospitable weather for delicate vines.

The rising temperatures could also threaten the end of champagne making in some vineyards. That is the striking conclusion from experts who will be speaking at the International Sparkling Wine Symposium later this year in the UK.

Rising temperatures are credited with improved and increased production of bubbly in the UK, where producers are capitalising on ideal growing conditions and planting grapes traditionally used for sparkling wines like chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier.

The Queen is likewise banking on a warming climate to help the 16,000 vines planted in Windsor Great Park thrive and produce the first batch of royal wine.

Experts suggest that while countries like Chile, Serbia, India and China are currently producing sparkling wine, warmer weather could make them bigger players in the marketplace.

English sparkling wine producers such as Nyetimber, which produces using the champagne method, have been given protected geographical indication (PGI) and in 2010 its Classic Cuvee 2003 was named best sparkling wine at a blind tasting in Verona, beating a long list of champagnes.

Fears over the future of champagne have not hit prices of vineyards, with the French land agency Safer revealing that sale prices in Champagne had risen 21.5% in 2012. Languedoc, however, has not been so well protected and land prices dropped to an average €11,800 per hectare.

However, champagne house Krug has declared that it will not be producing a 2012 vintage, due to the low-yield harvest.
Photo: Archana Bhartia - shutterstock.com

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