• Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    Wine and Climate Change: Winemaking in a New World
    by L. J. Johnson-Bell
  • Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    Pairing Wine and Food: A Handbook for All Cuisines
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Home Cellar Guide Hb
    Home Cellar Guide Hb
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    Quel vin pour quel plat ?
    by Linda Johnson-Bell
  • Great Wine Tours of the World
    Great Wine Tours of the World
    Barnes and Noble Books
  • The Wine Collector's Handbook
    The Wine Collector's Handbook
    by Linda Johnson
  • De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    De juiste wijn bij het juiste gerecht
    by Johnson-Bell Linda

  • Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match
    Good Food, Fine Wine: A Practical Guide to Finding the Perfect Match


Tasting the Heat: Where's the Bite?

Tasting the Heat – Where’s the Bite?

Important in the understanding of the warmer climate changing the taste of wine is the analogy of how the warmer climate changes the taste of other fruit. We want our fruit to be fresh, lively and refreshing. Let’s go back to Eden and take apples as an example. We want those to be crunchy and firm. A forty-year study of Japanese apple orchards has found that global warming is producing softer, sweeter, apples, writes Heidi Ledford (Climate Change Threatens Crunchy, Tart Apples, August 2013). She quotes a study published in Scientific Reports on how changes in climate are affecting a huge variety of our staple foods, such as Fuji apples, sugar maple trees, and …wine grapes.  “Climate changes are impacting the everyday lives of real people,” says Christopher Field, an ecologist at the Carnegie Institution for Science in Stanford, California, who was not involved with the work. “It is not just an abstraction.”

Fruit-tree specialist Toshihiko Sugiura of the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization in Tsukuba, Japan, and his colleagues decided to study how warmer temperatures cause the apple trees to flower earlier and produce a riper, sweeter fruit. Ledford writes that they established that the “hardness and acidity of the apples had declined during that time, while their sweetness had increased.” Mr. Sugiura says: “The changes may not be apparent to consumers because they took place so gradually. But if you could eat an average apple harvested 30 years before and an average apple harvested recently at the same time, you would really taste the difference.”

Wine tasters have experienced exactly the same phenomena, and we have the tasting notes to prove it. Our favourite wines are tasting differently, and they are not as good. We miss that “bite”. As Jamie Goode of the concurs:

“Relatively small changes in alcohol content can have quite a strong influence on how the other components of the wine are perceived. I find I don’t really enjoy wines with higher alcohol as much because of the effects of the alcohol on the nose of the wine, and the bitter/sweet/salty character the alcohol lends to the palate…..The other significant concern surrounds issues of ‘style’ or ‘taste’. Decisions about when to pick have quite an influence on how the wine will come out. In recent years there has been critical influence, largely from the USA, pushing red wines (in particular) towards a homogenized ‘international’ style. I realize this statement could form the basis of a feature all on its own, but for now, I’m tempted just to say that red wines showing higher levels of ripe fruit, accompanied by softer tannins and plenty of new oak influence often get very high scores from the leading critics, whose ratings then influence sales, most notably in the USA where critical scores have a strong effect on sales. When grapes are picked late to achieve this style, and lots of new oak is employed in the élévage, the sense of place (or terroir) of a wine is often masked. Wines ending up tasting similar no matter where they have come from.”

He is not alone in his views: this is what is being said out in the field by both winemakers and wine tasters. Everywhere I travel, I am being hit with two stylistic camps of wine: the traditional and the international, as I wrote earlier.  Recent trips to Tuscany found us despairing over the popularity and prices of those alcoholic, in-your-face, boring Super-Tuscan monsters. And even amongst those produces who did stick to their guns and to their Sangiovese, there was an inordinate amount of sickly sweet, over-boiled samples.  If it’s not Sangiovese, it’s not Tuscan. And if it’s over 14-15% alcohol, it’s not wine.

One afternoon during a tasting last year, held in a stunning 13th century monastery, my colleagues and I were trying to figure out why this was so. We had compared notes and had all chosen the same estates as our favourites. We were a mixed group of nationalities:  German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, Czech and British. But we all shared the same concept of what a “good” wine was. Heartening. We had also all identified one estate as being particularly “international” and commercial and we decided to go back and give it another try, so scathing had been our notes. But, wait ….. we could not get near the producer’s table. There was a queue …. of four Chinese journalists and three British supermarket buyers, all placing orders, filling in payment forms, all in a cloud of smiles and wildly happy international gesticulations. What does that tell us? Is this then, the link in the chain that is broken? The buyers?

When I started out as a wine writer for Vintage Magazine in Paris, in the 1990s, the Bordeaux were at 12 and 12.5% alcohol. As the years have advanced, so have the alcohol contents. We are now drinking Bordeaux at 15% +. Even the 1959 Bordeaux which was noted by Michael Broadbent as “the vintage of the century and one of the most massively constituted wines of the postwar era” and which was a very hot, dry year, produced wines at decent alcohol levels.  Château Latour was 11.6% (Andrew Jefford).

The hotter climate in Bordeaux is not entirely responsible for the increase. The higher alcohol levels everywhere are, in fact, due to, yes, rising temperatures, which means riper grapes with higher sugar levels, but also to improved viticulture (which means grapes are being picked in a riper state than they were before), and, to stylistic changes, as winemakers have opted for later picking to produce that sweeter wine profile that marks the “international” style, as recounted above. That said, at a recent tasting of the 2011 vintage of Bordeaux, I asked numerous producers, that if all variables such as style and viticultrual practices were elminated and there remained only climate - could they make a 12.5% wine again? Each and every one replied with an emphatic "no".


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  • Response
    Response: thesis website
    I think this research is really very useful for the farmers who are farming for apples.Apples are really very tasty and awesome fruit to eat.This Japanese research is really very effective for the apple reapers.

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