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Climate Change: How Rising Temperatures Could Transform Champagne Forever

Pop the cork and celebrate – Champagne sales have skyrocketed, reaching a dazzling 6 billion euros in 2022, with over 325 million bottles shipped from France’s Champagne region. However, amidst the clinking glasses and effervescent bubbles lies a growing concern – the looming threat of climate change, poised to alter the very essence of this iconic beverage.

Bubble Trouble: Climate’s Impact on Grape Production

  • Rising Heat, Sunburned Grapes: S&P Global’s Sustainable1 report forewarns a tripled risk of drought in Champagne by the 2050s, soaring from the current level of 16 to a concerning 43. This intensifying heat not only jeopardizes grape production but also risks sunburned grapes, damaging the cherished flavor.
  • Erratic Weather Blues: Beyond drought, the Champagne region faces the capricious whims of an increasingly unpredictable climate. Fires, floods, and frosts are becoming unwelcome guests in recent years, further complicating the delicate art of winemaking.

Sustainable Sips: Champagne Houses on the Frontline

Smiling friends raising glasses for a cheers

Pexels | Smiling friends raising glasses for a cheers.

Champagne houses are bracing for the harsh reality of climate change, with Moët Hennessy’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Sandrine Sommer, underscoring their determination to adapt to the diverse impacts on their terroirs. Acknowledging the need for change, Champagne Taittinger discloses a strategic move in harvest timing.

Traditionally slated for the end of September, the harvest is now pushed forward to late August and early September, a proactive measure aligning with the evolving temperature patterns to navigate the challenges posed by the changing climate.

The Champagne Alchemy: How Climate Affects Taste

  • Sweetening Sunshine: The warming climate isn’t just raising temperatures; it’s sweetening the deal. With more sun and sugar in the juice, champagne is naturally becoming sweeter. Taittinger’s Claire Sarazin notes that the excess sugar eliminates the need for additional sweetening, a trend they are cautiously monitoring.
  • Richer, Riper, Transparent?: Champagne critics are already detecting a “definite shift” in taste. Tom Hewson notes a move towards richer characteristics, aligning bubbly closer to other white wines. Susy Atkins, a seasoned wine judge, concurs, observing a subtle but discernible change toward a more opulent flavor profile.

Beyond the French Border: Exploring New Terroirs

Champagne Bottle on Celebration Table

Pexels | Champagne Bottle on Celebration Table.

Some Champagne houses are looking across the channel for a safe haven in the form of English sparkling wine. Taittinger and Pommery have jumped on this trend, investing in the English bubbly. Yet, they’re determined to keep the unique flavors of English and French varieties intact.

Meanwhile, the traditional rules of crafting champagne, covering everything from vineyard practices to grape-pressing methods, are on the chopping block. With the Champagne region grappling with its future, tweaking these time-honored rules might be the only way forward, challenging our understanding of what truly makes a champagne, well, champagne.

The Uncertain Future: Will Champagne Still Be Champagne?

  • Grappling with Alternatives: As climate challenges persist, champagne houses are exploring alternatives for the future. While Taittinger maintains a positive outlook, the search for new grape varieties meeting the rigorous standards of champagne-making is ongoing.
  • Diverging Paths: Moët Hennessy, however, is resolute in its commitment to France. CEO Philippe Schaus dismisses any notions of opening vineyards in England, underlining the brand’s allegiance to its French roots.

A Toast to Adaptation

Savoring the Bubbles: Embracing the Evolving Taste of Celebration

Pexels | Savoring the Bubbles: Embracing the Evolving Taste of Celebration.

In the world of bubbly indulgence, climate change poses a formidable challenge to the very essence of champagne. From adapting harvest schedules to contemplating new terroirs, champagne houses are navigating uncharted territories. As we raise our glasses to celebrate, we also raise awareness of the delicate balance between tradition and adaptation in the face of a changing climate. The future of champagne is uncertain, but one thing is clear – the industry is toasting to resilience and innovation. Cheers to a sparkling evolution!

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