Wine in a Changing Climate
Friday 17th July 2015
7:30pm (till 10pm approx)
£17 when booked by 10th July £20 thereafter
Price includes organic tapas
@ The Greenhouse
42-46 Bethel Street
Norwich, NR2 1NR
Climate scientists love wine. Grapes are considered an indicator crop, and have been dubbed ‘the canary in the coal mine’. In part, this is due to the data available to scientists. What other agricultural crop precipitates such detailed annual harvest reports?
But more than this – growing grapes for wine is a marginal activity. Too hot too fast, and the sugars will develop prematurely, before the other flavour components – before the grapes have reached phenolic ripeness. This leaves us with big, flabby, unbalanced wines. Plenty of alcohol, but no definition, and little ageing potential. To make good wines, and especially fine wines, we want the grapes to just reach ripeness, over a long growing season. This is why particular climates are better suited to particular grape varieties.
Sauvignon Blanc flourishes in cooler climes, which bring out its trademark acidity – France’s Loire Valley, for instance, or Marlborough, New Zealand. But Syrah or Shiraz needs the ‘roasted slopes’ of the Rhône Valley, or the intense heat of the Barossa Valley, Australia. These grape varieties have long-standing relationships with these geographical areas.
But what happens when we increase the temperature by half a degree, far less two degrees, or three?
Then we need different grape varieties, new plantings, and time for those new plantings to bear fruit.
What happens when water stress means we have to irrigate our vines, or watch them die?
Then, we need to choose which crops we save – and decide between grapes to drink, or grain to eat.
Our climate is changing. What does this mean for wine?
Within this small article, lets us assume that we have the energy to transport small amounts of liquid in glass bottles around the world. And within that major assumption, there will be viticultural winners and losers. Water stress is already impacting Australian and Californian hard. The likely future is vineyard migration – heading northwards in the northern hemisphere, and south in the southern. And so we see a proliferation of plantings in the south of England, and in Tasmania.
New plantings in southern England (and even in Wales) have moved away from the early-ripening Germanic varieties, and on to the Champagne varieties. This is mainly to build on our sparkling wine reputation, but we will get to try a rosé made from Pinot Noir on the 17th. A second English white will begin the night, and those who have tried Will Davenport’s Dry White in the past may perceive a more expansive and lush style to his 2013 vintage.
We will also taste three French wines. As French terroirs are well known by many consumers, winemakers face battles to create wines that stay true to the reputations of the regions. Between 1960 and 2010, the Loire Valley saw increases in mean temperature of 1.3 to 1.8°C during the growing season. Burgundy, meanwhile, has fallen foul of extreme weathers, losing huge swathes of their grape harvests to hailstorms in 2012, 2013 and 2014. The Rhône Valley has always had to contend with water stress, without the aid of irrigation. The dry, dusty vineyards of Mendoza, Argentina, by contrast, can only ripen grapes with the aid of an elaborate irrigation system – but let’s save the irrigation debate!
As theoretical as this sounds, the evening is about priming your palate as much as your mind. Taste the fruit of emerging vineyards and endangered vineyards, and nibble tapas made from organic and seasonal ingredients to boot. If you haven’t been to a wine tasting before, come! Our events are informal, sociable and unpretentious, and we teach the basics of wine tasting at the beginning of each event.
The evening’s wines in full:
Horsmonden Dry White, Davenport Vineyards, 2013
Kent / Sussex. 11.5% vol., £13.95 (shop price)
Grape varieties: Ortega / Faber / Siegerrebe / Bacchus / Huxelrebe .
Sancerre Les Caillottes Dauny, 2012
Loire Valley, France. 12.5% vol., £11.25 (shop price)
Grape variety: Sauvignon Blanc.
Diamond Fields Pinot Noir Rosé , Davenport Vineyards, 2013
Kent / Sussex. 11.5% vol., £13.95.
Les Riaux Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Renaud Boyer, 2013
Burgundy, France. 12.5% vol., £18.50. Grape variety: Pinot Noir.
Gigondas La Tour, Montirius, 2011
Southern Rhône Valley, France. 14.5% vol., £17.95
Grape varieties: Grenache/Mourvèdre
Malbec, Caligiore, 2011
Mendoza, Argentina. 14% vol., £11.95
Feedback from previous wine tastings:
‘Presenter excellent & friendly & well-informed’
‘Lovely evening… we learnt a lot!’
‘Excellent – as always!