MAREUIL-SUR-AY, France –
Champagne grape pickers had to start harvesting earlier this year, as climate change forced French sparkling winemakers to rethink how they make this wine foam.
High temperatures and the worst drought on record have sparked massive wildfires and led to restrictions on water use across France. But they also promote grape maturation.
“Not anymore,” said Charles Philipponnat, president of the family-owned Philipponnat Champagne winery, which produces several hundred thousand bottles a year.
“It is clear that now global warming is having an effect,” he said in his winery in northern France.
All around him, pickers hired for the short harvest season and paid for what they picked were plunging into temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) as the sun shone down on the steep hillside where the Pinot grape precious grows.
It is important to pick grapes before they are overripe and high in sugar.
“I think we are at a turning point,” said Philipponnat. “So far, global warming has helped: harvest in good weather, no rain, not too cold, ripe and less rotting.”
Producers across France are hoping this year’s harvest will yield a good-quality grape when it hits the market, a relief after frost and mold hit vineyards stricken devastating in 2021, which hot and dry weather helped prevent this year.
“What is going to happen now could be overripe grapes,” says Philipponnat. “It is possible that summers that are too dry will cause other problems that we need to adapt to. We will need to adapt to our viticulture and adapt to our technology – the way we produce it. wine production.”
One of the first steps is picking grapes earlier than in previous decades, and not just for Champagne.
This year’s harvest season is about two weeks early in most of France’s major wine-producing regions – a trend that is likely to be a long-term one, winemakers say.
Laurent Pinson, Chablis winemaker in Burgundy, central eastern France, said: “The wines can be different and we may have to adapt to other grape varieties or slightly different farming methods. compared to what we do now.
While harvesting there used to happen around October in the 1980s, it gradually moved forward to the point where harvesting in early September is now the norm, with occasional cuttings in August. Pinson said.
Reporting by Pascal Rossignol, Yann Tessier and Sybille de La Hamaide Editing by Ingrid Melander and Alison Williams