Guest essay by Eric Worrall
“We’re getting white wines this year more like ones from the Mediterranean.”
Climate Change Hits Germany, and Winemakers Couldn’t Be Happier
From Riesling to Pinot Noir, extreme summer boosts quality and quantity of German wines.
By Iain Rogers
22 September 2018, 17:00 GMT+10
The Braunewell family has been practicing the ancient art of viticulture in the picturesque hills above the Rhine River since the middle of the 17th century. This year’s grape harvest, at the end of Germany’s second-warmest summer on record, is their earliest ever.
Across Germany, the “Weinlese” is in full swing, and vintners are delighted with what promises to be an excellent year in one of the unique upsides to global warming. For Stefan Braunewell — who runs his family’s vineyard in Essenheim near Mainz with his grandfather, parents and brother — that means gathering the region’s famous Riesling crop four weeks earlier than usual.
“Of course, climate change brings challenges, but these challenges are manageable,” Braunewell said in an interview. “We can’t stick our heads in the sand. It’s nature, and you have to deal with it.”
As Braunewell and his peers can attest, however, a long, hot summer has upsides for winemakers above and beyond the early harvest. Ample sunlight increases sugar content, while dry weather keeps fungi from attacking the crop.
“I don’t think we have ever seen such healthy grapes,” Braunewell said. “It’s a bit of a crazy year for us, but the quality is good. The sugar content is excellent, the ripeness is very high and the aroma is great.”
“It goes against the trend as everyone is struggling these days with stress and sensitive stomachs,” Theo Gehring said in an interview at the vineyard he runs with his wife outside the town of Nierstein in the Rheinhessen region. “We’re getting white wines this year more like ones from the Mediterranean.”
Climate changes mean that the entire wine map is shifting. Gehring says he would have to relocate 300 kilometers (190 miles) to the north to produce the same kind of wines as 40 or 50 years ago.
This good news climate change story emphasises the implausibility of wild claims that a few degrees warming would threaten food supplies. Even if global warming does occur on the scale predicted by climate worriers, all that will happen is growing regions will shift a few hundred miles North (or South in the Southern Hemisphere).