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Pour Me Another

Pouring red wine on bartop

While the drought has brought a flood of problems for growers and barge traffic, another climate challenge may have benefited a different industry: wine growers.

The quality of wine has improved, at least in one part of the world, concluded researchers at The University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. They examined the taste of wines in the Bordeaux wine region of southwestern France over an extended period from 1950-2020.

Weather patterns have changed over that time. They say the quality of wine produced in that region has, too.

“How yearly fluctuations in weather influences wine quality has been a long-standing question. A newer, related, question is how climate change might impact wine quality. Weather and climate—the latter describing the weather over a long period of time—are expected to impact crops, but the link between climate change and agricultural produce quality has not been widely explored,” the study’s authors wrote as they explained the need for their research.

“Weather drives wine quality and wine taste. We found evidence that temperature and precipitation effects occur throughout the year—from bud break, while the grapes are growing and maturing, during harvesting, and even overwinter when the plant is dormant,” wrote Andrew Wood, one of the study’s authors.

These factors, the study found, can produce a higher quality wine:

  • warmer temperatures

  • higher winter rainfall

  • earlier, shorter growing seasons

Those three variables are all expected to become more frequent because of changes in weather patterns, the study added.

By the way, if you were wondering why researchers picked the Bordeaux wine region, you can find the explanation in the study here:

“The researchers chose to focus on Bordeaux because it’s a wine region that relies exclusively on rainfall for irrigation and because Bordeaux has long-term records of wine scores—they were able to leverage merchant wine scores from 1950 to 2020 for the overall region and wine critic scores from 2014 to 2020 for the individual AOCs. Wine judging is subjective and unblinded, meaning that wine critics know the origins of the wines they’re tasting. However, because most critics agree on what is a ‘good’ vs a ‘bad’ wine, the authors say that quality is ‘a non-subjective property of perennial crops’ that could be used to monitor how crops are changing long-term.”

Note: Much of the study’s findings discuss the impact of changes in the climate. But authors also point out that better technology could also be a factor in wine’s improved quality.

--RELATED: Listening to the right music can make drinking your wine 15% more enjoyable, according to a 2016 University of Oxford study.



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