Bordeaux needs to adapt to deal with climate change, says CIVB

Touriga Nacional, Marselan, Petit Verdot and Petit Manseng are among a number of late-ripening grape varieties highlighted by Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB) as ones that could help the region to adapt to climate change.

The CIVB has outlined a number of measures to help it deal with climate change in the future and in its latest report on the subject it said in Bordeaux, as in other French regions, winegrowers have observed a number of effects of climate change. These have included: an increase in average temperatures with a continued, pronounced vintage effect, a shorter vine growing cycle and earlier ripening and harvesting.

One of the ways it plans to deal with the effects is by adapting, and it will do this in a number of ways.

Firstly in adapting practices, such as delaying the pruning date, increasing vine trunk height to reduce leaf area and also in choosing late-ripening varieties and rootstocks that are more resistant to water stress. Vineyard managers may also rethink the plot sites for new vines and reduce plant density.

Another way it will adapt is by adapting the plant material. The report said: “The choice of plant material involves the production tool for several decades”.

It gave Merlot as an example of a grape variety emblematic of a Bordeaux wine, which currently reaches optimal ripeness, making it possible to produce very great wines.

It added: “However, in the face of rising temperatures, the early-ripening variety may miss its ideal window of ripeness in the years to come”.

It also highlights ancient grape varieties that might fare well in the future, and it pointed to Petit Verdot as a good late-ripening variety, which is “making the most of global warming”. The variety was planning on 375 hectares in 2000 and in 2018 on 1093 hectares.

The report highlights other late-ripening varieties that might fare well as the climate changes, including Arinarnoa (a cross between Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon), Castets (a long-forgotten Bordeaux grape variety), Marselan (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache) and the Portuguese variety Touriga Nacional. White varieties include Alvarinho, Liliorila and Petit Manseng.

The CIVB will also continue to fund research work on climatology and it said it will focus on two projects currently being conducted by the ISVV. These include an in-situ study of the behaviour and ability of the vines to adapt in the face of global warming and within the context of the climate in the Bordeaux vineyards. 

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