ENVIRONMENT

Even Climate Change Is Good For Something: German Wine

Global warming can shift the regions where wine grapes grow best.
A vineyard near Überlingen, a German city on the northern shore of Lake Constance.
A vineyard near Überlingen, a German city on the northern shore of Lake Constance.

It may be springtime for vintners in Germany. 

As average temperatures there soared 1.4 degrees centigrade over the last 40 years, the country already famous for its crisp pilsners and Riesling white wines has become more hospitable to the hard-to-grow grapes used to make pinot noir. So the quality of spätburgunder ― as the Germans call it ― is rising.

Bloomberg dubbed it the “buzzy alternative” to increasingly pricey red wines from France’s Burgundy region, which has been ravaged in recent years by unpredictable weather. 

Climate change threatens to destroy crops, submerge coastal cities and parch whole populations. But it could actually benefit some parts of the wine industry ― even in France.

Rising temperatures in France tend to produce early-ripening fruit, which is typically linked to highly rated wines, according to a study published in March by the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Before 1980, you basically needed a drought to generate the heat to get a really early harvest,” study co-author Benjamin Cook, a climate scientist with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, told NPR at the time. “But since 1980, it’s been so warm because of climate change that you can get the hot summers and really early harvests without needing a drought.”

And not all German winemakers are cheering the change. Organic vineyards there were hit hard by a warm, wet summer that bred infections and blight not easily fought off without chemicals.

But the folks at the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate in Schweigen, Germany, are celebrating the harvest of pinot noir grapes this year:

  • Friedrich Wilhelm Becker, co-owner of the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate, fills a glass with pinot noir, also known as
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Friedrich Wilhelm Becker, co-owner of the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate, fills a glass with pinot noir, also known as spätburgunder, during tasting at his winery in Schweigen, Germany, on Oct. 4, 2016. Global warming has been good to German viticulture, with average temperatures up 1.4 degrees centigrade over the past 40 years, creating the perfect climate for the notoriously finicky pinot noir vines.
  • Bottles of the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate's 2012 pinot noir sit on display at the winery.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Bottles of the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate's 2012 pinot noir sit on display at the winery.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Becker syphons pinot noir from a barrel during the Oct. 4 tasting.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Friedrich Wilhelm Becker syphons pinot noir from a barrel during the Oct. 4 tasting.
  • Pinot noir grapes ferment in a tank at the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Pinot noir grapes ferment in a tank at the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
  • The juice of the grapes drips from a crushing machine during pinot noir production.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    The juice of the grapes drips from a crushing machine during pinot noir production.
  • A forklift truck empties a crate of grapes into a crushing machine at the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A forklift truck empties a crate of grapes into a crushing machine at the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
  • A worker uses a high pressure water hose to clean a fermentation tank.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A worker uses a high pressure water hose to clean a fermentation tank.
  • Pinot noir grape stalks sit in a bin.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Pinot noir grape stalks sit in a bin.
  • A vintner stirs crushed grapes in a fermentation tank during pinot noir production.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A vintner stirs crushed grapes in a fermentation tank during pinot noir production.
  • A vintner mixes the pinot noir grapes in a fermentation tank.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A vintner mixes the pinot noir grapes in a fermentation tank.
  • A sign hangs outside the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate winery in Schweigen, Germany.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A sign hangs outside the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate winery in Schweigen, Germany.
  • A worker prepares white wine fermentation tanks for use on the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A worker prepares white wine fermentation tanks for use on the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate.
  • A vintner uses a pitchfork to load pinot noir grapes into a crushing machine.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A vintner uses a pitchfork to load pinot noir grapes into a crushing machine.
  • A tractor transports crates of grapes during the pinot noir harvest.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    A tractor transports crates of grapes during the pinot noir harvest.
  • Bunches of pinot noir grapes hang from the vines before the harvest.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Bunches of pinot noir grapes hang from the vines before the harvest.
  • Grape pickers work in the vineyard during the pinot noir harvest.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Grape pickers work in the vineyard during the pinot noir harvest.
  • Bunches of grapes sit in a crate at harvesttime.
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Bunches of grapes sit in a crate at harvesttime.
  • Pinot noir grape vines grow on the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate as fog shrouds the landscape beyond in Schweigen
    Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg/Getty Images
    Pinot noir grape vines grow on the Weingut Friedrich Becker Estate as fog shrouds the landscape beyond in Schweigen, Germany, on Oct. 4, 2016.
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