Doug Sloan

Global warming threatens French wine growers

This summer was a scorcher in France, the second-hottest on record

Musing about changing weather trends in France in Bloomberg Business, Rudy Ruitenberg reported that “This summer was a scorcher in France, the second-hottest on record.

“For Bordeaux wine growers, those searing temperatures were the latest reminder that global warming is threatening to upend their world.”

Grown far to the south Parnasse is a range of modern, varietal mid-week wines created by Frederic Quermel to express the relaxed nature and unique character of wines from the south of France. Each wine is bright and varietally expressive, with an elegance and subtle complexity that is hallmark of the region.

Fresh and aromatic with fruit-driven varietal aromas of tropical fruit, floral notes and grassy overtones, Parnasse Sauvignon Blanc (90464) $14.35 has clean vibrant tropical fruit and lemon notess matched by soft mineral acidity.

Parnasse Cabernet Sauvignon (666149) $14.25 has berry aromas over undertones of garrigue – wild juniper, thyme, rosemary and lavender – and black olives. Marvelous blackcurrant and raspberry flavours dominate the blue and black berry medley.

A mix of red berries, blackcurrants and sweet smoky spicy clove and cinnamon lead in Parnasse Syrah (503441) $14.35 finishes with a burst of dark berried fruit flavours wrapped in savoury spice and fine tannins.

Herve Le Treut, in the most recent report by the French intergovernmental climate-change panel suggested “Nature reacts extremely strongly to changes in temperature. We’ll need to know, for various wine-grape varietals and cultivation methods, what has to be preserved, at what price.”

Long before New Zealand captured the wine world’s attention with their racy Sauvignon Blancs, France’s Loire Valley was the benchmark.  Despite global warming, the influence of the nearby Atlantic Ocean and the continental climate of its northerly vineyards may still let the Loire Valley reign supreme.

Jean-Pierre and Christophe Davault, fifth and sixth generation wine makers, respectively, are putting out a classic Loire Valley white in Domaine de la Chaise Touraine Sauvignon Blanc (870840) $19.90.  Fragrant white grapefruit and a fresh, white minerally note are persistent on the palate and certainly in the finish.

This year wine grapes in Beaujolais, north of Lyon, ripened faster than ever recorded and the harvest started unbelievably early on August 24.  Oenologists – wine scientists – have set aside plots in Beaujolais to cultivate experimental varieties of grapes to see which fared best during the hot summer.

Cru Beaujolais are made from Gamay wine grapes from specific villages. Julienas has 600 hectares of vines, and is one of the most recognizable of the Beaujolais crus. More deeply flavoured than some of their southern counterparts, if they are well cellared Julienas red wines can improve noticeably for 5 years after bottling.

From the ‘King of Beaujolais’ – Georges Duboeuf –  Chateau des Capitans Julienas (453217) $19.70 oozes a medley of PFR – little red berry – fruit as well as peach, raspberry, blackberry and a touch of cinnamon. Just the slightest chill enhances the bright, silky character of this medium bodied red wine.

“Extreme weather is becoming more common in all of France’s wine-growing regions. Heavy rains and hailstorms increasingly come on the heels of summer heat waves and dry periods,” writes Ullrich Fichtner in Spiegel Online.

Loving every sunny heat-baked moment De L’Arjolle Zinfandel (822825) $25.85 comes from the only hectare of Zinfandel in France in Pouzolles in Languedoc-Roussilon. Dark purple red, it oozes blueberry and blackberry fruit with subtle notes of liquorice and cloves with echoes of wood smoke, vanilla.

Speaking with Spiegel Online’s Fichtner, winemaker Phillipe Guigal said “The problems are getting really serious… along the Rhône Valley.  Seventy-five percent of the wine produced by Châteauneuf-du-Pape is pressed from Grenache but the variety is no longer tolerating the heat.”

“It has become stubborn lately,” Guigal said. “The maturation processes in the grapes are impaired. The sugar content peaks too early, before the berries are completely ripe. Color, tannins and aromas are so far behind, said Guigal, that proper harvests become difficult. The quality of entire vintages is at risk.”

That said, Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee Peur Bleue (90332) $77.90 simmers with lush, ripe blueberry, blackberry, black olive and provençal herbs and a bouquet of intriguing fresh floral aromatics. There’s a soft, easy, almost organic feel to this sulphite free, unoaked blend of equal thirds of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.


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