It is almost a month now that the UN conference on climate change – COP 21 – took place and we are wondering today, early in 2016, what influence politicians will have; insofar as we, as winegrowers, are concerned there is a question which is hard to answer: how will we be affected and will future generations have to change the methods of cultivation in Burgundy?
We have all noticed over the last few years how the harvesting date in Burgundy is earlier, in fact 3 weeks in comparison with the seventies; we have lost some traditional markers such as the 100 day rule, the timelapse between full bloom and harvesting.
A positive feature, however, is the better sanitary condition of the grape and less grey mold.
It has also been observed that the sugar content level is reached far more easily: as chaptalization to 1.5 degrees is permitted in our area this may no longer be necessary in future; but what about the level of acidity, so important for the conservation of our wines?
Experts have forecasted higher yields which may not be in keeping with the required quality of the wine: in a normal year some yields have increased by 50% since 1994 but this has not yet been verified for our area.
The reasons are an increase in CO2 in the atmosphere together with the vitality of the vine as well as higher temperatures giving more bloom; because the time between the grape harvest and when the leaves fall is longer, the capacity of the vine to stock nutrients is greater.
The resistance to disease is an important matter in view of more frequent oidium and infections attacking the wood of the vine ; there are cases of "flavescence dorée" spread by a leafhopper insect as it moves along.
It would seem that the better the maturity of the grape, the better the vintage: however, it appears that the sugar content increases faster than the aromatic substances and as nights are less cool, the question is what impact this could have on the aromatic qualities of the wine.
Should we believe that the intrinsic features of Burgundy wines are threatened? This is another difficult question to answer.
Some climatologists talk about displacing the winegrowing areas; some claim that climate conditions of the seventies have now moved northwards by 100 km. Does this mean that Burgundy wines will be produced in the Champagne district?
To conclude, where is the truth in all these matters? But climate is certainly not the only thing to be considered: the physical nature and the soil of the land are just as crucial together with the sheer skill of the winegrower.