The burning French summer will yield less wine – but it’ll be higher in quality

By Tori Latham 29 August, 2023

The vagaries of the weather might usher in an exquisite vintage

In the past year, climate change has been affecting all sorts of French delicacies—Dijon mustard, Salers cheese, you name it. The latest victim is perhaps the country’s greatest export: wine.

Extreme heat in the European country is expected to lessen this year’s output of wine, Reuters reported earlier this week. However, the heat waves are also supposed to elevate the quality of said wine.

“This year we are on a late concentration which will raise the quality of the grapes, and therefore the cost of the wine, as the smoothness and aromas which will emerge will make a rather exceptional wine for the 2023 vintage,” the winemaker Jerome Volle told the publication.

Volle has a vineyard in Valvignères, which sits in the country’s Ardèche region. He said that the area is facing a 10 to 20 per cent decrease in the amount of wine it’s able to make this year. That’s because the heat can burn the grapes, making them unusable for winemakers. Jérôme Despey, a Languedoc producer and the first vice president of France’s largest farm union, told Reuters that the entire south of France will face falling output this year.

Just this week, temperatures in the Rhône Valley are expected to reach a scorching 42 °C. As such, grape pickers are being told by French authorities to work only in the mornings, before the heat becomes too much to bear. Volle, for example, began working at 3 am this week. He said that overnight harvesting, which can keep grapes cooler, can also help conserve energy and avoid harming the harvest and aromas.

Last year, in a similar turn of events, France experienced extreme drought yet had a fantastic Champagne harvest. While other wines may have suffered, those in the industry were optimistic about bubbly’s 2022 vintage. “After two years marked by a shortage of grapes and difficult weather conditions, this harvest was perfect in every respect,” Didier Depond, the president of Salon and Delamotte, told Robb Report at the time. “It’s about quality, not quantity.”

Winemakers in the south of France may do best to echo that sentiment this year.

This article was originally published on Robb Report USA