Climate change is coming for your cava and champagne

Enjoy it while you can.
Enjoy it while you can.
Image: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

First it wreaked havoc on our tea, then coffee. Now sparkling wine—both cava and champagne—is under threat from climate change.

A new study in Agricultural and Forest Meteorology looked at grape varieties in northeastern part of Spain, which is famous for producing cava. They found that, as global temperatures continue to rise, it’ll lead to warmer and drier conditions in the region. In turn, grapes will ripen more quickly and that could negatively affect the flavor and aroma of the wine.

To arrive at this conclusion, authors used rainfall data between 1998 and 2012 and created mathematical models to predict how three varieties of grapes used in making cava—Macabeo and Paralleda from Spain and Chardonnay from France—would be affected. An earlier ripening period makes cava less acidic and more sugary. Some of that sugar turns into alcohol during fermentation, and makes the drink more alcoholic, too.

Similar changes are likely to happen to grape harvests in France. Grapes in the region of Champagne that help create the cherished wine are being harvested two weeks earlier than they were 20 years ago. They are also bigger in size, have more sugar, and thus produce a more alcoholic drink.

If temperatures rise by as much as 5℃ by the end of the century, as some models predict, “it could change the fundamentals of the grape varieties,” Thibaut Le Mailloux of the Champagne Committee, a trade association, told the The Telegraph. “It is absolutely essential to start research now because in 25 years it will be too late.”

It’s not doom and gloom for all. If Spain and France can’t produce as much excellent sparkling wine, wineries further north, such as in England, are readying to pick up the slack.