Climate change is certainly the greatest challenge for the decade to come. But what does it mean for the world of wine and specifically for us as sommeliers?
Well, first of all, there are many regions, be it California or Australia, which are seriously affected by the extreme weather changing from one minute to the next. The images of the recently extinguished fires will remain in our memory for a long time to come. Winegrowers are also feeling the effects of climate change in some European regions, for example with increasingly frequent hail and frost damage, for example in Burgundy on 14 April 2018.
Even in regions where the effects are less extreme, there are noticeable changes. In many growing areas the harvest is taking place earlier from year to year. Nevertheless, achieving the necessary physiological ripeness of the grapes to produce complex and exciting wines is a great challenge, which has already required some adjustments to the work on vineyards. The topic of irrigation for young plants is also being discussed more intensively again.
But there are other topics that have almost been forgotten. Particularly in more northern areas, where there was often the fear that the level of maturity would not be reached or a little bit of assistance was provided in the cellar using chaptalisation, winemakers are now asking themselves different questions. First and foremost, which grape varieties are to be planted. Who would have thought a few decades ago that interesting Syrah would come from the Palatinate and storable sparkling wines from Sussex? But what does this mean in reverse for regions like the Moselle or Champagne, which have produced light, crisp wines for centuries – do they now have to change grape varieties? It is no coincidence that Albarinho, Touriga Nacional and five other varieties from warmer climates have recently been authorised in the Bordeaux appellation.....The suspense continues as to how these developments will unfold.
How should we as sommeliers deal with this topic, which has left its mark everywhere, not just since Greta? The most important thing for me is our role as ambassadors; to take the dialogue we are having with winegrowers on climate change to our guests and colleagues in the restaurant in a transparent way. To inform, not instruct. To encourage winemakers to support projects and join initiatives that promote green practices. To be prepared to pay a higher cost price to support winegrowers even in years with high crop losses. To critically question when a new cuvée is delivered in a bottle weighing several kilos with three layers of outer packages. To be open to new grape varieties and styles from new regions. And also to be increasingly aware of our responsibility in terms of environmental awareness in other areas of the restaurant and put this into practice. Curious? English sparkling wine is available in Hall 13 and Palatinate Syrah in Halls 13 and 14.
In the words of Immanuel Kant: "Act only according to that maxim by which you can at the same time will it to become a universal law." (Marc Almert, in January 2020, Zurich)