Climate change could make the UK a major wine producer
Under blue skies, seasonal workers work hard pruning long rows of vines and harvesting a variety of Pinot Noir grapes during the summer heatwave.
But it’s not a village in France, however, but Appledore in Kent in southern England, where the high temperatures needed to grow the grape are no longer uncommon.
“At the moment, I think we have similar growing conditions to Champagne in the (19) 70s and 80s,” said Charlie Holland, chief winemaker and managing director of Gusbourne Estate.
“We are seeing the same kind of growing conditions, the same ripening period in England as we did in France at the time,” he added.
Climate change is altering the UK wine landscape.
English winemakers are now able to produce a wide variety of still and sparkling wines from grape varieties such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Riesling which was not possible before – and this production could increase exponentially. over the next few decades.
A rise in power of English wines
According to Holland, there is now “a huge appetite for English wines abroad”.
“It’s not very often that a new wine region appears on the world wine scene,” he noted.
Despite the relatively high price – £45 (€52) for one of Gusbourne’s sparkling wines – demand is growing both in Britain and overseas for the drink.
But while English winemakers like Gusbourne started producing award-winning sparkling wines in recent years, UK vineyards have again been eclipsed on the international stage, covering a total of 3,800 hectares – around a tenth of France’s champagne-producing region.
However, a study published in July found that higher growing season temperatures over the next 20 years will further increase the UK’s wine potential, allowing the cultivation of grape varieties such as Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and semillon, which are hardly grown in the UK at present.
The study analyzed climate data, including growing season temperatures between 1999 and 2018 in the pinot noir growing regions of Champagne, and showed that similar climate conditions were likely to occur in England and the UK. South Wales by 2040.
This assumes that climate change continues on its predicted trajectory amid global reductions in carbon emissions.
The risks of climate change
While the rapidly changing climate presents opportunities for England’s winemakers, the rapid pace of transition also brings major planning challenges, warned Alistair Nesbitt, co-author of a forward-looking study of the country’s wine industry. .
“It’s a really quite appallingly short period of time to have such a transition in variety suitability, and it really shows the rate of change that some parts of the UK are starting to see due to climate change,” said he declared.
“Hopefully the world will act together and we won’t see this increase continue for too long because it threatens everyone, including UK growers,” added Nesbitt, chief executive of consultancy Vinescapes.