Wine with Leslie Williams

Wine with Leslie Williams

As everyone except US president Donald Trump seems to know by now the climate is getting warmer and more unstable, and it seems likely this will have a major effect on the wines we will be drinking in the future.

The effect is already noticeable, especially in more marginal climates in Europe as any winemaker will tell you. Summers are hotter but also more unpredictable, hail is more common and has caused huge problems in Burgundy in recent years (the primary reason chablis is more expensive). Just this month golf-ball sized hailstones hit the Rhone causing millions of euro worth of damage to vineyards in Crozes Hermitage and St Joseph.

In cooler regions such as the Mosel Saar Ruwer however, grapes are ripening significantly easier than they did in previous decades. There was a time when winemakers would have to write off perhaps three out of 10 vintages of delicately sweet Kabinett and Spatlese wines and use the grapes for simple sparkling Sekt. That rarely happens these days. In warmer regions such as Spain however, there is a significant worry that temperatures may climb too high for the classic varieties.

Many producers are already planning ahead such as Masi in the Veneto and Torres in Penedès. They are experimenting with non-typical grape varieties that can withstand warmer temperatures. Even old-fashioned Bordeaux has announced a tranche of new permitted grape varieties.

Four red grapes are being added — marselan, castets, arinarnoa and touriga nacional from Portugal — the last being the most surprising as the other three are related to existing permitted varieties or from the broader southwest (marselan is a grenache-cabernet sauvignon crossing; arinarnoa a cross of tannat and cabernet sauvignon).

For white wines the new grapes are petit manseng (cf, jurancon), liliorella and alvarinho with the former two somewhat local, and alvarinho the classic grape of Galicia and northern Portugal. All the new grapes have good resistance to mildew. The new varieties are only permitted to make up 10% of a blend so the flavour of Bordeaux will not change much. I can see the percentage increasing if the climate warms significantly. My selection here draws inspiration from the new Bordeaux grapes list.

Wine with Leslie Williams

Wine with Leslie Williams

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