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CHAMPAGNE AND CLIMATE

We like to celebrate our special moments with a glass of Champagne. An anniversary, a new job, or New Year's Eve with friends while enjoying fragrant burnt fireworks powder, shivering outside in the cold (which you no longer notice if you drink enough of it). But Champagne as we know it is struggling to maintain its recognizable taste due to climate change. Text: Susan Poeder

Store cold and dry

The grapes depend on a relatively cool climate in combination with a chalky soil. Although we here in the Netherlands have greatly enjoyed the tropical temperatures in recent weeks, Champagne farmers have not and are concerned about the future.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Antoine Malassagne, co-owner of AR Lenoble, explains the challenges they currently face. “The harvest now starts in August. About 20 years ago this was mid to late September. Early ripening during these hot days results in grapes becoming less and less sour, which ultimately makes the wine less fresh and loses its unique taste.”

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Super grape must save Champagne

What can winegrowers do about this problem? For example, champagne makers can add their reserve wines (the higher quality wines than usual) to improve the taste of their vintage. Malassange is developing a separate line of 'reserves' to add freshness.

But Champagne farmers are also looking for a more long-term solution: the super grape; which may sound more like a rosewater dick with a purple cape. But somehow it is right. The current grapes used are not intended to withstand climate change and grow just as fast as temperatures rise. This results in large grapes that contain much more sugar. The result: a higher alcohol percentage.

The National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the Institut français de la vigne et du vin de Montpellier work together with the Champagne Committee on the development of new grape varieties. They do this by crossing certain grape varieties, which gives them properties that are suitable for developing Champagne. The first results are expected in 2030.