Wine and climate change in the UK

Richard Selley an Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London has written a book The Winelands of Britain: past, present and prospective, that describes how climate, geology, and culture have shaped wine growing in the UK.

He projects that climate change will destroy the wine producing potential of current wine producing areas of the UK, such as the Thames Valley, and the Severn valley. From an Imperial college press release:

…if the climate changes in line with predictions by the Met Office’s Hadley Centre, by 2080 vast areas of the UK including Yorkshire and Lancashire will be able to grow vines for wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which are currently only cultivated in warmer climates like the south of France and Chile.

Different grape varieties flourish in different temperatures, and are grouped into cool, intermediate, warm and hot grape groups. For the last 100 years ‘cool’ Germanic grape varieties have been planted in British vineyards to produce wines like Reisling. In the last 20 years some ‘intermediate’ French grape varieties have been successfully planted in southeast England, producing internationally prize-winning sparkling white wines made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

Combining temperature predictions from the IPCC and the Met Office’s Hadley Centre with his own research on UK vineyards throughout history, Professor Selley predicts that these cool and intermediate grape varieties will be confined to the far north of England, Scotland and Wales by 2080, with ‘warm’ and ‘hot’ varieties seen throughout the midlands and south of England.

Explaining the significance of his new study, Emeritus Professor Selley from Imperial’s Department of Earth Science and Engineering, said: “My previous research has shown how the northernmost limit of UK wine-production has advanced and retreated up and down the country in direct relation to climatic changes since Roman times.

“Now, with models suggesting the average annual summer temperature in the south of England could increase by up to five degrees centigrade by 2080, I have been able to map how British viticulture could change beyond recognition in the coming years. Grapes that currently thrive in the south east of England could become limited to the cooler slopes of Snowdonia and the Peak District.”

Projected wine variety ranges in 2080

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