Planning to pull out a bottle of chilled champagne in celebration of your latest accomplishment? Not so fast. The seasonal shifts in temperature that have become more and more extreme over the years are affecting grape production in regions around the world, and that includes the famous Champagne region in France. Champagne grapes depend on a cool climate and chalky soil in order to produce the crisp, fruity taste they are known for. But climate change is making these factors less dependable, and champagne producers in France are worried about the future.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Antoine Malassagne, co-owner of champagne maker A.R. Lenoble, explained the difficulties now involved in champagne production. “Harvest is two weeks earlier than it was 20 years ago,” he said. “It used to be mid-to-late September. Now harvest often starts in August, as it will this year. But maturity during hot days and nights results in lower and lower acidity in the grapes, which means less freshness in the wines.” The lower acidity is also problematic for producers, given that acidity is what allows champagne to age, creating the wine’s unique taste.
A.R. Lenoble has been combating the gustatory alterations to its products by mixing in reserve wines from older vintages. Louis Roederer, another champagne compnay, has begun experimenting with DNA analysis of yeast and biodynamic viticulture to try and head off the impacts of climate change. Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon, the company’s chef de cave, has spearheaded these efforts in search of a way “to maintain what has made Champagne’s reputation.”
Despite the potential challenges facing champagne producers, Lecaillon is optimistic. “We invented bubbles to make up for unripe grapes. As farmers, our job, our life, our passion has been to adapt to climate change for hundreds of years. If the future heats up too much,” he said, “we’ll just have to make Burgundy.”