Champagne growers cast a wary eye at England

Fournel vineyard-768

Eric Fournel, vineyard manager of Duval Leroy Wines in Champagne, France, walks through a field of grapes with reporter Faun Kime at the family-run vintner's winery in Vertus, France. French winemakers are taking many precautions to adapt to a warmer climate. Photo © Faun Kime.

May 9, 2014

Famous logoFew things say 'celebration!' like a bottle of Champagne. But what happens when temperatures in France's iconic wine region grow too hot for the grapes?

Part 1: Better bubbly from ... England?

Produced in collaboration with PRI's The World. See their report here.

By Faun Kime
The Daily Climate

Editor's note: This is the second part of an occasional series looking at how climate change affects the rich and famous. Billions of people are getting hit - hard - by climate impacts. Often it's those least able to afford it. The wealthy are not immune either. It's time to see how climate hits Rodeo Drive. Or St. Moritz. Or Champagne. Reporting was done in collaboration with Public Radio International's The World.

VERTUS, France – The distance between the sparkling wine renaissance in southern England and Champagne, France is 88 miles as the crow flies. 

Many growers in Champagne will tell you that despite the problems associated with climate change, overall they've benefited from the increased warmth – thus far.

But the French are taking every precaution and sparing no expense in their preparations for the troubles climate change may bring in the future. 

'Decrease in quality'

"We are afraid," said Eric Duchene, a research scientist with the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. "Everywhere in the world there is a kind of optimum temperature for grape growing, and after a certain level, everywhere in the world you have a decrease in quality."

Fournel-500I spent two weeks in the wine country of southern England and France, researching efforts by the Agricultural Institute to breed and graft grape varieties to endure hotter temperatures. 

I also spent time at a Champagne house that has considered buying land in the cooler climes of England – a hedge against those higher temperatures.  

The second part of our two-part video series on changes to Europe's sparkling wine industry, "Champagne growers eye England," examines how climate change is affecting French Champagne. The first part, "English sparkling wine, the new belle of the ball" tours England's Ridgeview Wine Estate, a family-run winery audacious enough to beat Champagne at the only contest in the world to judge sparkling wine and Champagne together.

Faun Kime is a California-based filmmaker and journalist. The report was done in collaboration with PRI's The World and The Daily Climate, an independent news service covering energy, the environment and climate change. 

Find us on Twitter @TheDailyClimate or email editor Douglas Fischer at dfischer [at] DailyClimate.org

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