Wines Under Threat As Bordeaux Hit By Rising Temperatures

October 18, 2015

This summer was a scorcher in France, the second hottest on record. For Bordeaux wine growers, those searing temperatures were the latest reminder that global warming is threatening to upend their world.

In a vineyard on the outskirts of the world's wine capital, Agnes Destrac, a researcher with France's National Institute for Agricultural Research, points to shriveled merlot grapes, left to linger on the vine well past harvest time to simulate the effects of rising temperatures.

"You have to keep in mind the limits of the grape," Destrac said. "We're not going to keep merlot no matter what."

A few years ago, such talk would have been heresy in a place where merlot vines cover more than 60 percent of the red- wine area. But now Destrac is at the forefront of a race to hunt for grapes that can better withstand heat, helping Bordeaux's $4.2 billion wine industry adapt to a hotter world.

Merlot is Bordeaux's earliest-ripening red, and its character would change if a warmer climate meant fully ripe berries in August rather than September, said Bernard Farges, a winemaker and president of the Conseil Interprofessionel du Vin de Bordeaux, the local wine board.

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