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Climate Change Likely to Increase Potential for Wine Production

A new study discloses how climate change is increasing the ability of wine production in the United Kingdom. This has conditions that have been projected to resemble those in well-known growing regions of Germany and France.

Image Credit: Gill Copeland/

Over the past two decades, climate change has added up to an increase in the UK vineyard area with over 800 vineyards now-and award-winning wine production, as well as a shift in wine style towards sparkling wines.

At present, a research group from the University of East Anglia (UEA), the London School of Economics, Vinescapes Ltd, and Weatherquest Ltd have plotted the potential for the sector over the next two decades. Drawing on the latest elaborate climate projections, they have come up with a cutting-edge potential to model and map the best chances for grape growing and winemaking in the United Kingdom.

Their outcomes have been reported recently in the journal OENO One, displaying how the climate of a bigger area of England and Wales has been projected to turn out to be ideal for dependably increasing sparkling wine grape varieties, and how the ability for high-quality still wine production is emerging in a quick manner.

We’ve seen viticulture in the UK expand nearly 400% from 761 to 3800 hectares between 2004 and 2021. Over that period the warming climate has supported much more reliable yield and quality of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties—these varieties are blended in the production of champagne-style sparkling wine.

Steve Dorling, Study Lead Researcher and Professor, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia

Dorling also associated with the forecasting company Weatherquest Ltd added, “Warm, dry UK growing seasons like 2018, with lower than average disease problems in the vines, led to production of a record-breaking 15.6 million bottles and these growing conditions have already become and are projected to become more common.”

The Climate Resilience in the UK Wine Sector (CREWS-UK) project was financially supported by the Natural Environment Research Council as part of the UK Climate Resilience Program.

The researchers took into account how often increasing conditions in the UK have been projected to climatically match those seen most recently infamous sparkling and still wine-producing regions in Burgundy and Champagne regions of France, and in Baden in Germany.

Their outcomes highlight that from the 1980s there has already been warming of over 1 °C at the time of the increasing season in much of south-east and eastern England. It is a shift that has been one of the main enablers for growth and variety change in the UK viticulture sector during this time.

This work is a UK first, a unique combination of climate change science, viticulture and wine expertise. We found that significant areas within England and Wales are projected to become warmer by 2040 by up to a further 1.4 °C during the growing season.

Dr Alistair Nesbitt, Study Lead Author, Vineyard and Winery Consultancy Vinescapes Ltd

Nesbitt continued, “This expands the area of suitability for Pinot Noir for sparkling wine production, but also new areas will open up within the growing season temperature suitability range for still Pinot Noir production and for growing varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon and more disease-resistant varieties, which are hardly grown in the UK at present.”

Furthermore, anyone thinking of investing in a vineyard in the UK can now benefit from this knowledge through advice on the best locations, both now and under future climate change conditions,” added Nesbitt.

The research group made use of the UK Climate Projections 2018 scenarios to evaluate the future variety and wine style suitability in the UK, and the potential for viticulture investments, sector adaptation, and resilience more than the period 2021–2040.

Regions in East Anglia, south-central England, Lincolnshire, north-east Wales, and coastal areas in south-west England and southern Wales are projected to have 2018 “conditions” during 2021–2040 in 60–75% of years. This implies the unusual 2018 vintage will turn out to be highly common.

At the same time, huge areas in south-eastern and eastern England are projected to get into an ideal range for still red Pinot Noir production. Already, while Pinot Noir for sparkling wine is grown successfully in the United Kingdom, the projected increasing season temperature increases currently denote the new and increasing chance for still Pinot Noir production in a few regions.

We have shown that in some areas of the UK the bumper vintage of 2018 will become the norm, and that Champagne region grape growing temperatures from 1999-2018 are projected to occur across an expanding area of England during 2021–2040.

Dr Alistair Nesbitt, Study Lead Author, Vineyard and Winery Consultancy Vinescapes Ltd

Nesbitt added, “In certain years, a few areas of the UK may see growing season climates similar to those that contributed to the very best recent vintages of Champagne, as well as support increased potential for Burgundy and Baden-style still red wines.”

The researchers caution that there are still many obstacles to overcome, arguing that the industry must remain flexible and not “lock-in” to production that cannot adjust to the shifting growing conditions due to the rapidly changing UK climate.

Prof Dorling stated, “There are exciting times ahead for the UK wine sector, but our results have emphasized the challenge of establishing wine identities and brands, in particular those tightly associated with varieties and wine styles, in a rapidly changing climate.”

British weather can still be erratic, as the 2012 vintage illustrated when much UK grape production was lost as a result of the cool and very wet flowering period. Year to year climatic variability will tend to stay, such as early season frost risk, even if the longer-term trends are considered good ones.

Furthermore, sustainable vineyard and winery investment decisions will still need a cautious analysis of all the related growing environment and market threats.

Dr Nesbitt stated, “Through our advisory services our teams at Vinescapes and Weatherquest are enjoying supporting the sustainable growth of the UK wine sector and we’re immensely grateful to WineGB, the industry body, for facilitating all the engagement we’ve had with viticulture and wine production people throughout the CREWS-UK project.”

Journal Reference:

Nesbitt, A., et al. (2022) Climate change projections for UK viticulture to 2040: a focus on improving suitability for Pinot noir. OENO One.


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