Throughout the world, traditional wine grape growing regions and newer ones too are facing the challenges of climate change. Paso Robles is finding success with grapes like vermentino at Tablas Creek and Robert Hall as well as with grapes originally from the Rhone. On the other hand, areas once questionable are becoming viable; with increased temperatures, getting grapes ripe enough is not the challenge it once was in Bordeaux and Champagne. In fact, according to the Huglin classification, the wine-growing climate in Bordeaux went from temperate to warm temperate: very hot days have “increased by 3.5 days per year over the past 30 years.” Destructive spring time hail storms increased in intensity since 1989, and grapes are ripening twenty days earlier on average, and taking place under warmer conditions meaning greater vintage variation, higher alcohol content, lower acidity, and modified aromas. Unsettled weather in 2020 including hail, frost, floods, and a summer heatwave led to the harvest being down 9% from 2019 while in 2021, the harvest was down by 14% from 2020 because of a late frost in the spring.
To mitigate climate change, in Bordeaux as in other areas, wineries need to change practices in the vineyard and in the cellar. AOC Bordeaux wines may allow “new” grapes. Currently, red wines comprise the majority of production at 85%, with Rosé 4%, dry white 9%,sSweet white 1%, and Crémant 1%. AOC Bordeaux red wines are limited to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Carmenère, and Petit Verdot grapes while white grapes for AOC wines are Sémillon, Sauvignon, Sauvignon Gris, Muscadelle, Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Merlot Blanc, and Mauzac. Red wines comprise the majority of production at 85%, with Rosé 4%, dry white 9%,sSweet white 1%, and Crémant 1%.
With an increase in temperature, early ripening Merlot, which accounts for 66% of the area for red grape varieties, is reaching optimal maturity. With temperatures continuing to climb, merlot is in trouble while Petit Verdot, a late-ripening red grape, will benefit– hence increase plantings from 2000 to 2020 of 117%. Bordeaux is experimenting with four red grapes (Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan, and Touriga Nacional) and two white grapes (Alvarinho and Liliorila).
More importantly, Bordeaux says they are committed to collective and individual environmental practices to become more sustainable by lowering their carbon footprint and embracing biodiversity while encouraging the health of the vineyards and surrounding ecosystems.
“Sustainability in winemaking is really at the forefront for winegrowers in Bordeaux,” said Allan Sichel, President of the Bordeaux Wine Council in a press release. Bordeaux Wine Council reports:
- 75% of Bordeaux vineyards are certified as having a sustainable approach in 2021
- 23% of the vineyard is organic or in conversion
- 24% collective regional reduction of carbon emissions since 2012
- Vineyard biodiversity initiatives encourage healthy bat, bee, and tree populations and other microfauna which are natural enemies of vine pests
- Bordeaux has 1000 species of wild pollinators
- 19 species of bats in Bordeaux are predators of moth larvae that eat grapes; they eat between 500-1500 insects a night reducing pest pressure meaning pesticides aren’t necessary
- Bats can’t be introduced but must migrate there on their own based on inviting habitat
- AOC growers number 5300 winegrowers with 56% family businesses with an average size of 20 hectares
Some of the recommended changes include planting later-ripening and new varieties on rootstocks that resist water stress, locating vineyards plots to reduce sun exposure, and changing planting density.
Changes in agronomic practices include:
- Pruning in accordance with the growth cycle to limit the impact of spring frosts.
- Reducing the canopy area to limit photosynthesis in order to moderate sugars.
- Protecting the grapes from the sun’s rays with the canopy.
- Reduce evapotranspiration with cover crops.
- Harvesting earlier or later, and picking when temperatures are cool.
Reducing carbon footprint is a bit more complex, however, steps being taken in Bordeaux include:
- 50% of cooperative cellars and merchants monitor their energy consumption
- 2/3 use lighter bottles (unfortunately, 60% don’t know how much recycled glass is used)
- 1/3 are reducing the impact of freight.
With these considerations in mind, I attended the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux tasting held in Los Angeles earlier this year, and interviewed the women there about their sustainable practices; see photos and captions above. In the Before Times, Sue and I focused on Margaux and the challenges of sustainability. (I’ve found when I attend these large trade tastings it’s useful to have a focus or a theme going in so it isn’t so overwhelming!)
While the wines featured are in the more expensive range retailing from $50-150, these come from certain areas with particular classifications. Not all wines from Bordeaux are as expensive; many of these Chateaus have a second label that’s costs less. Or a farmer might sell many of their grapes and keep some for themselves that might be cheaper. Either way, look out for more affordable examples of Bordeaux wines like the one below.
Château Puyanché, Côtes de Bordeaux, 2015,
Grapes: 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon
Importer: Fruit of the Vines Inc.
sample to participate in a ZOOM about climate change actions in Bordeaux where most of the information above came from
In the early 20th century, Château Puyanché manager and owner Bernadette Arbo’s great-great grandfather Amand Puyanche moved to Francs with his wife and daughter Amande intending to plant a vineyard. His plans were interrupted by the Great War in 1914, and he was killed in May 1917 at chemin des dames in Craonnelle. Amande’s son Andre kept the dream alive, selling grapes to the coop. Andre’s daughter Bernadette and her husband Joseph left the co-operative and create Amand’s dream, naming the Chateau Puyanche after him. Newer projects are Chateau Godard Bellevue and Moulins de Coussillon. Their children Margaux and Dorian carry on the dream with Pascal Poussevin as the eoenologist.
No insecticides have been applied for over ten years, they reduced their usage of sulphates by 50% and they committed to earning an international certificate ISO 14001. Grass between the vines provides forage for bees; local sheep graze it and fertilize it in the winter. Harboring bats by creating habitat for them and guiding them using trees and hedges an ongoing process has been part of their success.
Appearance: Garnet with a brick rim, medium density
Aroma: Baking spices, carnation, potpourri, cherry tobacco, peppercorn, very pleasant nose, eucalyptus
Palate: Dry tart cherry, lingering cherry finish, sage, menthol, menthol tobacco, acidic, silky tannins, mild fruit finish. Well balanced.
This wine offers a great value for the price!
Pairing: Grilled lamb chops with lots of rosemary and garlic plus Yukon gold potatoes roasted on the grill and mixed steamed vegetables make for an impeccable pairing.
Find more wines by women working sustainably in France written by the Winophiles:
- “7 Generations of Women Providing Grand Vin De Bordeaux” by Wendy Klik on A Day in the Life on the Farm
- “Mas de Libian: The Commonality Between a Muslim Persian Poet, a Game of Boules, and a Wine Warning” by Culinary Cam
- “Letting nature decide: A look at 3 women of Alsace and their biodynamic vineyards” by Linda Whipple at My Full Wine Glass
- Here on Wine Predator, Sue and I share “Women Working Sustainably in Bordeaux + the Greedy Bats of Château Puyanché”
Below is the initial tentative schedule for 2023 with links to completed articles:
Month: Date | Event name | Host name | Other details
January: Rhone Valley Diversity | Jill Barth | North or South
On Wine Predator: A Range of Rhone Wines Provide Delightful Diversity Paired with Citrus Salad and Instant Pot Cassoulet ( with recipes!)
February: Jura | Jeff Burrows | Any aspect of the Jura.
On Wine Predator: Enjoying Jura’s Wine and Cuisine
March: France’s Women in Wine Working Sustainably/ Gwendolyn Alley /any region, any role but showcase their work that’s good for the Earth
April: Springtime in Paris – Bistro Wine and Food | Cindy Rynning | Share your favorite Parisian bistro wines and foods – bonus points for your own experiences in the City of Light
May: Chardonnay / Deanna Kang / aligns with Chardonnay Day on May 25
June: Normandy for D-Day | Wendy Klik | Drinks, food, travel, culture
July: New World Endeavors of French Wine Producers | Cathie Jenks Schafer
August: Summer in Provence | Linda Whipple
October: Cru Bourgeois | Susannah Gold
November: The Ebb and Flow of Beaujolais Nouveau / Camilla Mann / Are You a Fan?
December: Bubbly, anyone?
When the vineyard attracts bees and bats, you know it’s sustainable! Great info in this post. I’ve tasted this same 2015 Châteaux Puyanché. Yummy! Bet it was splendid with lamb chops.