Farewell to champagne? New Year's drink may disappear due to climate change
Champagne may soon become scarce, according to ClimateAI, a climate resilience platform based in San Francisco. The company said that global climate change could threaten the popular celebratory drink.
ClimateAI's artificial intelligence data suggests that hundreds of grape varieties could be on the verge of extinction, including the grapes used to make champagne: Pinot noir, Chardonnay and Merlot, FoxNews reports.
Will Kletter, ClimateAI's vice president of operations and strategy, told Fox News Digital in an interview that champagne and wine lovers could suffer losses by 2050.
"If you're a consumer who prefers a bottle of wine from a particular region, I would advise you to enjoy it now," he said.
What is the secret of champagne's flavour and why might this drink disappear?
According to Kletter, the great taste of champagne comes from a combination of warm, sunny days that give it a rich flavour and cool nights for sourness and a sense of freshness.
The expert warns that as the climate warms, these cool nights may begin to disappear.
"This puts growers in a very difficult position," he says. "They can decide to harvest earlier to prevent what's called over-ripening - too much alcohol, too much flavour in the grapes - or they can let it stay on the vine and risk over-ripening but maybe get sour fruit. Thus, you will have to compromise to get the flavours that people expect."
What threatens the Champagne region in France?
In light of the changing climate, Kletter said some producers will be forced to move their production north to take advantage of the colder weather.
He noted that there has been a "significant" increase in investment in sparkling beverages produced in the UK, where, for example, warm sunny days are followed by cool nights.
As companies begin to move to other regions, Kletter predicts that the economics will also change.
Champagne currently comes from one region of France. According to ClimateAI, French wine exports are worth $9.6 billion, which is equal to 16% of all global wine sales.
In 2021, champagne producers received the smallest harvest since 1957 due to extreme weather conditions, according to ClimateAI.
"Sparkling wine can be made anywhere, but champagne can only be made in Champagne (France)," he said. "This is crucial for the French economy."
Half a million workers in the champagne industry, as well as the 24 million tourists who visit the region each year, could be affected by climate change, Kletter told Fox News Digital.
"For decades, if not centuries, the traditions and culture of this region have been built around champagne," he said. "They're going to face a lot of challenges in maintaining their economy and culture as this ideal zone moves away from them.
Kletter predicted that with the change in crops, there will be "very significant economic shifts," especially in Italian regions where the production of certain wine varieties is under threat.
"You can already see that Italy has lost its status as a world leader (in wine production) due to a number of factors, but climate is definitely an important one," he said. "So it will mean a change in the balance."
Winemakers must find a way
To adapt, Kletter encouraged winemakers to blend different grape varieties to create new versions of popular wines. For example, in Bordeaux and Burgundy, this could mean using new grape varieties to make Bordeaux wine.
Kletter also noted that producers can change the time of harvest and use certain methods to protect grapes from the sun.
It all starts with understanding the risk," he said. "And then our customers can move from that long-term understanding to our seasonal offering."
"Even though we are working with climate risks, we like to think of ourselves as optimists because we are providing tools to people around the world who are solving these problems."
Champagne will taste different
Dr. Benjamin Cook, a climatologist at NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University, responded to ClimateAI's statements in an interview with Fox News Digital.
The New York-based scientist reiterated that grape varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot noir will not disappear as they are grown in many regions.
"It is likely, however, that the climate in the Champagne region will become less suitable for these grape varieties, which means that the champagne produced will be different and possibly of lower quality," he said. "At the same time, it is likely that areas in the north will become more suitable for these grapes, opening up the potential for improved production in these other regions.
Cook agreed that climate change will have a "significant impact" on viticulture, which will be a "major challenge for the industry moving forward, particularly for high-value wines."
"This will require some adaptation, which may include changing the varieties and wines produced in different regions, moving production to new areas with more favourable climates, or changing management strategies in regions affected by climate change," he said.