Grape harvesting season reveals effect of climate change
INTERNATIONAL - If you want to know more about global warming, look to your favourite Beaujolais.
Data on grape harvests in the famed French wine region show a dramatic shift towards hotter and drier weather, climate change researchers said yesterday.
Grape picking season has jumped forward by an average of nearly two weeks since 1988, compared to the previous 600 years, according to the study, whose authors said it showed previously extreme weather had become “the norm”. “It's a warning,” said Christian Pfister, a climate change professor at the University of Bern, Switzerland, who worked on the study published in the journal Climate of the Past.
“It shows that the warm extremes in the past have become normal in the present.”
Winemakers are being forced to abandon time-honoured techniques as hotter summers boost the sugar content of grapes, meaning wines have higher alcohol content and different flavours.
Harvest records can help cast light on climate change, as the grape picking season starts each year when the fruits are ripe, with hotter weather making them ripen faster.
The study used archives including harvesters’ pay records and newspaper reports to track the start of the grape harvest in France's east Burgundy region.
Researchers found that for more than six centuries - between 1354 and 1987 - grapes were usually picked from September 28 onwards, but from 1988 to 2018 the season began 13 days earlier on average as a result of “rapid” climate warming. Paris temperature records also showed the number of exceptionally hot years had increased since 2003.