The Sun, the Rain, the Grape and the Future
Our champers aficionado puts out some feelers to see how climate change is affecting Champagne and what the region can do about it
Article by Kyle Ridington
Climate change is certainly happening and what is Champagne going to do about it? I was speaking with a close friend from London concerning this problem but I felt my answer was still lacking. I therefore sat down with owner and winemaker Rodolphe Péters of the highly regarded Champagne Pierre Péters located in the grand cru village of Le Mesnil-sur-Oger to get his take on the issue.
We can confirm that harvest dates have been pushed up to an average of two weeks comparison to 20 to 30 years ago. In return, this results in a shorter growing season for the marginal climate of Champagne, which is already challenged by rampant disease and impulsive weather patterns that can decimate a year’s crop in minutes. “Nature is speeding everything up and it’s our job in Champagne is to try to slow everything down,”’ Rodolphe comments.
One of the keys to doing this is to plant vines at a lower density. In the future, there will be fewer vines planted per hectare whilst each vine will be responsible for producing more fruit. For a single vine to produce more fruit it slows down the maturation process; simply it takes more nutrients and time for a vine to ripen more grape clusters and this is how you extend your growing season. Selection massale (the French term for selecting exceptional old vines in a vineyard and propagating them through cuttings) will also play a key role in the upcoming years. Rodolphe selects certain vines in his vineyards that clearly outperform neighbours in disease resistance, fruit set, maturity and so forth. As he sagely points out, “the work needs to be done now to ensure the success for future generations.”