Extreme weather has affected innumerable businesses this year as unusual patterns have caused everything from droughts to hurricanes. As French vineyards near the end of their harvest season, it seems that the wine industry can added to the list of those affected.
The bad luck for France started with a spring frost that damaged vines in Bordeaux. The cold hit when the plants were young and most vulnerable, repeating what had happened in 1957, which previously held the record for lowest production year. To make matters worse, as the others faced frost, the southeastern side of the country faced the opposite problem. Hot, dry and windy weather in Languedoc-Roussillon parched the grapes, reducing yields and juice. Summer storms were the issue in Champagne, as they caused grape rot in many of the vines across the region. Because of these catastrophes, French winemakers are reporting a 19 percent decrease in volume, equivalent to 4.9 billion bottles.
Italy, France’s closest competitor for the yearly title of world’s biggest producer of wine, also faced damaged crops. The forecasts still put Italy ahead of France, however, with an expect output of about 10 million more hectoliters.
Luckily, many vineyards in Champagne keep reserve stocks in their cellars for just such an occasion, insuring an uninterrupted production in this lean year. Additionally, the Burgundy-Beaujolais region is expected to actually have a 6 percent increase, which will help make up for lost wine.
The atypical weather of this year is not an isolated incident. This record low yield unfortunately aligns with the data on climate change that almost all of the scientific community agrees is significant. While there are a multitude of other reasons to pay attention this issue, it seems that we can add wine to the ever growing list. Winemakers and wine-loving-innovators alike are finding and creating ways to produce wine while lessening the impact on the environment, or in spite of poor environmental conditions — stainless steel wine barrels are just one piece of this puzzle. Regardless of equipment, it’s important to push back against climate change, lest this fluke of a season in France becomes a pattern in the future.