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Climate change in Burgundy: Slowing the impact

It’s getting hotter in Burgundy – that much is clear, from data analyses and personal testimony. What does this mean for the future of the region’s finest wines, whose style is shaped by its marginal climate? And how are producers responding, asks Tim Atkin MW

Imagine the summer of 1540 in Burgundy. More to the point, imagine enduring those stifling, record-breaking months without air conditioning, antiperspirant or an ice-cold beer.

Forest fires seethed across Europe, worshippers at the church of Notre Dame de Beaune joined eight separate processions to pray for rain, and the temperatures were almost unbearable.

Vines suffered from hydric stress and when the grapes were eventually harvested they looked like raisins, producing wines that were sweet, rich and heady.

After three sweltering vintages between 2017 and 2019, it’s easy to forget that exceptionally warm, dry growing seasons are nothing new in Burgundy. Last year, a group of academics from the European Geosciences Union published a meticulously researched paper analysing the starting date of every harvest in Beaune between 1354 and 2018.

Of the 664 years under consideration, 33 were what they termed ‘extremely early’ and 21 of those occurred between 1393 and 1719, long before the invention of the motor car or the advent of the industrial revolution.

The beliefs of modern-day climate change sceptics could be further bolstered by the fact that there were only four unusually early vintages between 1720 and 1987, suggesting that Burgundy was cooler in that period.


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