Pinot Noir migrates north

Winegrowers are feeling the effects of climate change particularly keenly. In just decades – or even as soon as a few years – certain grape varieties will no longer be able to be cultivated in many regions. The heat-sensitive Pinot Noir is one of them. 
James Lawrence searches for the Pinot Noir regions of the future.

Baden is one of Germany’s main regions for Pinot Noir, called Spätburgunder in German. Pictured is the mountainous region of the Kaiserstuhl / Credit: 2013 Gottfried Reidler
Baden is one of Germany’s main regions for Pinot Noir, called Spätburgunder in German. Pictured is the mountainous region of the Kaiserstuhl / Credit: 2013 Gottfried Reidler

If anyone wants an example of how global warming is upending Europe's viticultural map, they should look to Pinot Noir. Indeed, the grape is arguably the canary in the coal mine. Throughout most of the 20th century, producing ripe and succulent Pinot Noir in Northern Europe was a thankless achievement. German Pinot Noir (Spätburgunder) was once derided as anemic dross, with only the bravest – and most optimistic – winemakers attempting to grow the temperamental variety on British soil. 

Yet in 2018, warmer summer temperatures ripened Spätburgunder with relative ease in regions like Pfalz and Baden, producing structured and concentrated wines. It's a similar story in the expanding vineyards of southern England. Tasted blind, a glass of Gusbourne's 2018 Pinot Noir (the fruit is grown in Kent) is startlingly reminiscent of a Premier Cru Volnay. “I first saw the potential for making still wines in our specific micro-climate in 2010 – the results were really promising, so we kept going,” says Gusbourne's winemaker Charlie Holland.

Meanwhile, the Burgundians are increasingly exploring the potential of higher-altitude terroirs in the Cote d'Or. Maintaining freshness and acidity in a warming climate is the 21st century challenge facing all winegrowers across Europe. As a result, many of the great Pinot Noir terroirs of tomorrow are likely to be found in higher-altitude sites, and further from the equator. Investors should observe the following regions and countries with great interest. They are the new frontiers of cool-climate Pinot Noir.

Comments

Climate change certainly a part of this discussion but also significantly other factors such as winemaking confidence and better benchmarking as well as market opportunity to enter sectors where demand and price are attractive
The general nature of Vintage conditions can be an approximate indicator of quality . More important are individual skills around Viticulture , Winemaking and how favourable the site .
Pinot Noir also offers the handy ability to be useful for a diverse choice of wine styles - white , rose , red - sparkling or still

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