Terroir today…gone tomorrow


The celebratory pop of the cork…

The steady stream of tiny bubbles…

A clinking of glasses followed by joy and laughter… Champagne, the definitive celebratory drink, is something special, but for how long will we be able to indulge in this worldly treasure? According to the Sunday Times article “Champagne will fizzle out with 2C rise from global warming”, the clock is ticking.

Tick tock…

Tick tock…


Should you be worried?

Well, I certainly am.

We’re only just beginning to feel the negative effects of global warming and to imagine that it is impacting terroir to such an extent that in 30 to 50 years, Champagne may not actually be able to be made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of France is shameful. Everyone can point the finger and displace the blame, but ultimately, we have only ourselves to blame. Most of the luxuries we enjoy on a daily basis were not so long ago considered inaccessible or once in a lifetime indulgences. However, now, everything is readily available…too readily available. I can walk 100 meters to my local corner shop and choose from a variety of Champagne bottles and other wines from all over the world. Champagne isn’t the real treasure it once was because it’s everywhere.

The distribution and sale of Champagne exemplifies how the earth’s natural resources are being exploited and transported all over the world to meet the demands of consumers everywhere. This culture of instantaneous consumer gratification, disposable commerce and greed are the driving forces that are bankrupting the Earth’s natural resources and leading to a climate crisis. The ultimate price to pay will be completely losing these treasures and in the case of Champagne (love that word play!!), it’s an entire terroir that will be forever ruined.

Despite the Sunday Times article saying that the rising temperatures could force growers to move Champagne production further north into cooler regions, such as Britain, this clearly demonstrates the source of the problem. Isn’t it worrying to think that Champagne might never come from Champagne again?!?! Is terroir something that we can simply throw in the bin alongside all the plastic, toxic chemicals and CO2 emissions that have created this problem in the first place and order a new and improved one? Out with the old and in with the new…

Not so fast…and please, hold off on the plastic bubble wrap!!

Whoever thinks that rising temperatures will somehow lead to a utopia within the British sparkling wine industry is fooling themselves. Higher temperatures won’t be the only effect of climate change, but rather, viticulturalist Ben Kantsler in the Sunday Times article, “English Sparkling Wine Bubbles into the Elite – Even the Damp, Cold 2019 Vintage,” suggests that weather patterns will also become more variable.

So what’s wrong with a little volatility in our weather?

What impact would this actually have on viticulture, as most people living in England would agree that the weather here is and has always been very unpredictable?

The problem lies in the fact that vitis vinifera, wine grapes (They are in a class all by themselves!!), are inherently fussy. They can’t even grow their own roots without being susceptible to the phylloxera bug and are therefore grafted onto heartier American grapevine rootstock. Additionally, they require consistency throughout the growing season. Subtle changes in terroir (weather patterns, temperatures, soil health, etc…) can make or break a vintage. An unexpected spring hail storm can severely damage or knock off the tiny flower clusters, which is sudden death for any potential grape. Additionally, fluctuations in weather patterns impact growing degree days which makes it very challenging to predict and implement the correct spray program for a vineyard (and yes, organic and biodynamic vineyards have spray programs!!!). With all these variables, the terroir will ultimately be redefined and possibly will be unsuitable for growing wine grapes in either locations France or England.

Is this fear mongering…well, not entirely. Although, some fear might trigger positive changes in attitudes and practices within the industry and among consumers. However, I think that this is just a logical foreshadowing of what the future of sparkling wines might face in the future.

Finally, this isn’t something that can be categorized as a ‘first world’ problem because at the root (nice pun!!) of this potential catastrophe is an entire industry relying on the terroir to create perfect vitis vinifera grapes so that a centuries’ old tradition of making sparkling wine…the finest the world has ever known…might continue to be enjoyed for centuries to come!