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Global warming ‘fortunate’: Pontallier

Chateau Margaux general director Paul Pontallier has endorsed his fellow producers’ views on climate change: it is no bad thing.

Pontallier was speaking at a Margaux masterclass at Christie’s in London, which he presented along with Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owner of the renowned Bordeaux first growth.

Asked about climate change and rising alcohol levels in wines, he said, ‘We are so fortunate with global warming. Look at the number of great vintages we have had in the last 12 or 13 years. It is absolutely amazing.’

The chief advantage, the veteran winemaker said, was the fact that it was now possible to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon.

‘We always struggled to ripen Cabernet Sauvignon. In a few great vintages it would reach perfect ripeness. But in the last 12 or 13 years Cabernet has reached full ripeness virtually every year.’

Pontallier said this obviously ‘has something to do with global warming’ but he added that improved viticultural practices were also a factor.

Both he and Mentzelopoulos said that they were not denying the fact of climate change – but that it was impossible to make predictions. Pontallier stressed that he was fully aware of the issues, highlighted at the recent Climate Change and Wine conference in Barcelona.

‘But who knows what will happen in the next 50 years,’ the oenologist said.

The Bordelais – and winemakers worldwide – have frequently commented on the beneficial aspects of a warmer climate. At the Barcelona conference in January, Bruno Prats, former owner of Cos d’Estournel said, ‘The last 10 vintages [at the chateau] have been the best ever.’

Others including Jean-Baptiste Lecaillon of Champagne house Louis Roderer, consultant Pascal Chatonnet, and Adrian Bridge of Taylor’s port have have spoken of climate change in positive terms.

For their part, climate change scientists and viticulturalists are adamant that a one-degree temperature change would be catastrophic for the great wine regions of the world.

It would render Cabernet Sauvignon unviable in Bordeaux, for example, viticulturalist Richard Smart said at Barcelona.

‘Have you thought about the fact that in Bordeaux, we may have already seen the best vintages of Cabernet Sauvignon?’ he asked the conference.

Pontallier and Mentzelopoulos were presenting a range of wines at Christie’s, the 1993 Pavillon Blanc and the 04 Pavillon Rouge and eight vintages of Chateau Margaux: 1978, 82, 83, 89, 95, 96, 01, and 04.

Written by Adam Lechmere

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