Have the best Bordeaux wines been drunk already? A reflection on the transient nature of terroir, using case study Australia

Aim:  The aim of this paper is to demonstrate that the meaning of terroir should be regarded as transient. This is because climate, one of the principal components of terroir, is changing with time, and can no longer be assumed to be constant with fluctuations about a mean. This is due to the climate crisis.

Methods and Results: The paper reviewed a very recent climate modelling study of Australian grape growing regions (GI’s) especially for temperature. It included Mean Growing Season Temperatures (MSGT) for the present period (1997-2017) and two in the future, (2041-2061) and (2081-2100). The results were in line with several previous projections indicating warming and drying trends over the period. Present hot inland regions will be the most affected. Literature references indicated similar trends elsewhere in the world including traditional vineyard regions of Europe.

Conclusions: Results of the climate modelling for Australia and the rest of the world suggest the need for adaptive responses as the terroir changes. This will require changes to variety or of the region. The transition will be easier for presently cool regions than for presently hot ones, as more potential varieties are available. Some currently hot regions may become unsuitable for wine production. There is evidence that the optimum temperature conditions for present varieties in regions like Bordeaux have already been surpassed by climate change.

Significance and Impact of the Study: There is limited evidence to date that global wine firms recognise the scale of this problem and are planning to adapt. A good outcome would be that the world wine map might be redrawn, to feature some new regions and new varieties in existing regions. A bad outcome would be associated with failure to acknowledge or address the impending crisis.

Author: Richard Smart*

Smart Viticulture, Greenvale, Victoria, Australia

Email: vinedoctor@smartvit.com.au 

Keywords: Climate change, terroir, temperature

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