While some people still deny the existence of global warming, those who accept the science acknowledge that climate change is almost universally bad for all animal species on Earth. However, a recent study suggests there’s at least one thing that climate change is improving: the quality of fine French wine.
According to NPR, the gradual increase in global heat is actually bringing improved growing conditions for many French vineyards, helping to ripen the fruit on the vines much earlier than the harvest season typically would. The findings were published on Monday in the journal Nature Climate Change, bringing perhaps the first and only positive result of global climate change.
While 2016 is en route to becoming the hottest year on record and ecosystems face serious danger from rising CO2 emissions due to climate change, the hot and dry conditions actually enhance the flavor of wine, according to climate scientist Benjamin Cook from NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
“Before 1980, you basically needed a drought to generate the heat to get a really early harvest,” said Cook, who co-authored the study. “But since 1980, it’s been so warm because of climate change that you can get the hot summers and really early harvests without needing a drought.”
According to Phys.org, Cook and his team of researchers examined 500 years of grape harvest records across France. The data shows that climate change is allowing the fruit to be harvested a whole two weeks earlier than the past. This appears to be a direct result of climate change rapidly increasing temperatures, forcing grapes to ripen fast without the need for a drought. Although it depends on the type of wine being made, earlier harvests are associated with higher quality wines.
According to Practical Winery, early harvests ensure that the grapes retain a certain acidity that is essential for good wine, and waiting too long can result in unwanted rainfall or chemical changes within the fruit.
“It was the earliest flowering I’ve ever seen. You have to go and say that we are seeing a definite increase in temperatures across the climate and that the vines are responding. If it ripens really early and very fast, like you see in the warmer areas, you tend to lose the acid and the flavours don’t seem to hold up. And you make a different style of wine.”
While climate change might seem like a benefit for winemakers, global warming will only complicate things over time. If the effects of climate change continue, growers may need to re-evaluate their entire process, including having to relocate vineyards to a higher altitude.
“But the wine quality was kind of middling,” Cook added. “That suggests that after a certain point, it could just get to be so warm, and the harvest so early, that you move into a situation where the old rules no longer apply.”
Assistant Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Elizabeth Wolkovich agrees that climate change is only helping wine quality in the short term. Unless the effects of climate change are reversed, wine quality will soon start being hindered by global warming.
“The bad news is that if we keep warming the globe we will reach a tipping point. The trend, in general, is that earlier harvests lead to higher-quality wine, but you can connect the dots here… we have several data points that tell us there is a threshold we will probably cross in the future where higher temperatures will not produce higher quality.”
What do you think? Should wine lovers be happy about climate change or do their part to protect the environment?
For more on climate change, read about how President Obama accused those who deny climate change of not being fit to lead.
[Photos by Justin Sullivan and Joe Raedle/Getty Images]