Climate change is having a “very real” impact on wine production in Europe, according to leading French wine growers.
Their warning about global warming on the wine sector came at the launch of a high profile campaign to promote a “new generation” of wines from the Alsace region of France.
The campaign, tagged “Alsace Rocks!”, aims to showcase the best of the region’s wines, including bio and “sustainable” wines being produced by a new generation of young wine growers.
The initiative is being spearheaded by CIVA – the Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins d’Alsace, an association based in Colmar which promotes wines from the region. The move is timely as next year marks the 70th anniversary of the famous Alsace wine route.
Wine producer Chantal Braun was among those who travelled from Alsace to Belgium for a campaign briefing with Brussels based reporters.
She and her husband Christophe run a 15 hectare vineyard in Alsace, producing about 80,000 bottler per year.
But she said that in 2021 they lost as much as 70 per cent of their annual wine production due to the weather and she puts this down to climate change.
“That was an awful lot to lose,” she said, adding, “and it was all down to the unseasonal bad weather.”
“It this patterns continues in the coming years it will be cause for real concern.”
Alsace, she said, normally had 450 mm – 500 mm of rainfall in an average year but during just a three month period – May, June and July 2021 – the region had 450mm.
“This, remember, is the usual average for the whole year,” she said.
Conversely, this summer was the opposite, she says, adding, “it was the driest I can ever remember. We had just two days of rain in June and July and this has obviously caused some damage to our grapes.”
On a more positive note, she says the couple’s business had managed to survive the economic hit and the vineyard was, in fact, now “adapting well” to climatic changes.
“We grow bio dynamic wines and this ‘bio culture’ is helping to adapt.”
The couple have run the vineyard, “Domain Camille Braun” and once owned by Christophe’s father, since 2005 and specialise in organic and biodynamic wine production, sourcing their wines from the seven different grape varieties found in the Vosges region.
Foulques Aulagnon, export marketing manager for CIVA, who also attended the event on 18 October, said, “Alsace has the most unique mosaic soil in the world. This, along with the climate in the region, is very important as it allows our producers to offer a large variety of wines. Our wines have become very trendy all over the world.”
He also spoke about a “revival” of “sustainable” wine production and a “new generation” of younger wine growers who are “bringing their own vision” to the sector.
“There is an exciting new generation who are exploding theories on the ‘old way’ of wine production.”
Also speaking was Marilyn Jaegy, of Maison Cattin, a large scale family-run vineyard also located in the south of the region. Spread over 80 hectares it produces about 4 million bottles per year, also specialising in organic and sustainably farmed wines.
Speaking to this website, she also voiced concerned about the impact climate change is having on the industry, saying, “Yes, we have noticed this too.
“You can see, for instance, that grapes are now maturing earlier than in the past. Climate change certainly means that we are all going to have to rethink the way we produce wines and look at new ways of doing this,” she said.
Both Marilyn and Chantal presented a selection of wines produced at their respective vineyards, including pinot gris and pinot blanc.
Some 90 per cent of wines in Alsace are white and just under a quarter of vines are of the pinot blanc variety. This, said Foulques, an “easy drinking and fruity” wine.
The event was held at La Buvette, a leading restaurant in Saint Gilles, Brussels. Its owner Nicolas Scheidt, is originally from Alsace and also produces artisan bread.