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English vineyards introduce new grapes due to global heating- Grauniad

September 19, 2020

By Paul Homewood

 

 

h/t Dennis Ambler

 image

On a hot morning in Devon, a single field stands as a barometer of climate change. Charlie Brown, 30, an assistant winemaker at Sandridge Barton vineyard, explains that the site in which they will soon start planting pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunièr wine grapes would once have been considered unsuitable for growth.

“The climate has changed. When you are the top of that brow the wind does rip through it a bit but we can plant here now,” he says.

The plot of land will become the focus of “Dijon clones 114, 115, 667 and 777”, he says. “These are clones that we now feel are suited to help us continue making world -lass pinot noir. Previously we had to use champagne clones due to the climate.”

The vineyard in Totnes is one of many across England to have used increasing temperatures year on year to their advantage. This summer is following the trend, with 36.4C recorded on the hottest August day for 17 years. Recent research showed the likelihood of the UK experiencing 40C temperatures for the first time was “rapidly accelerating” because of the climate emergency.

“Traditionally England was a hard region to ripen grapes as it was not warm enough,” says Greg Dunn, head of the wine division at Plumpton College, which runs land-based courses, “but in the last 10-15 years temperatures have increased to such an extent that we can now grow a number of grapes and make outstanding wines.”

In 2018, they had one of the warmest years on record. “The land used for planting grapes has increased substantially in the last five years and in the next three to four years we expect to go from 3,500 hectares up to 6,000 hectares of vines.”

England’s position in the wine market has been cemented in recent years with Taittinger becoming the first champagne house to plant vines in the country, closely followed by Champagne Pommery. A total of 1.6mvines were planted in 2018 and 3m vines in 2019.
In Totnes, the humidity in August this year was perfect for growing. “If it starts getting really hot then the grapes ripen early and won’t produce that character we want – then the sugar levels start getting really high and we’re not looking to produce a really overripe jammy Pinot Noir.”

Changing climates, however, also bring weather unpredictability. “The growing season was fantastic in 2019 and we had really good flowering … But then when harvest came around the middle of September, the floodgates just opened. It rained and it didn’t really stop. So basically the grapes just stopped developing and you weren’t getting any phenolic characters coming through. They’re picking up water and they saw the disease come in. It’s a case of picking quickly as opposed to picking when you think the grapes ready,” Brown says.

https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/sep/18/english-vineyards-introduce-new-grapes-due-to-global-heating

 

Unsurprisingly this Guardian article is yet another grossly inaccurate piece. For a start, it is not true that pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot meunièr are new to the UK.

 

In fact one of the best known English vineyards, Nyetimber in Sussex, began operations in 1988 with those very same grapes:

image

https://nyetimber.com/our-story/

And the three account for 78% of UK vineyard area:

image

 https://www.winegb.co.uk/trade/industry-data-and-stats-2/

 

And, according to Wikipedia, Pinot Noir has been growing here much longer:

 With the decline of wine producing most of England’s grape varieties were lost. However a known survivor of these lost varieties is Wrotham Pinot which has been found to be a distinctive clone of Pinot noir and is speculated to be up to 2,000 years old and to have possibly been introduced with the Romans. Wrotham Pinot was found by accident growing wild up a cottage wall near the village of Wrotham in Kent. The variety is noted for its unusual furred leaves and great disease resistance, particularly to powdery mildew. In appearance it more closely resembles Pinot Meunier but DNA testing has revealed it to be a clone of Pinot noir.

It is also not true that English wine making has only been made possible by “global heating”, as the The History of English Wine website makes clear:

 

Domesday & Middle Ages

It is more certain that by the time of the Norman Conquest, vines were grown, and wine made, in a substantial number of monastic institutions in England, especially, southern England. The legacy of street names (such as Vine street or the Vineyards) in London and provincial towns and cities – suggests that vines and vineyards were certainly no great rarities.

Seyval - a high yielding variety popular in England

At the time of the compilation of the Domesday Survey in the late eleventh century, vineyards were recorded in 46 places in southern England, from East Anglia through to modern-day Somerset. By the time King Henry VIIIth ascended the throne there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales – 11 of them owned by the Crown, 67 by noble families and 52 by the church.

It is not exactly clear why the number of vineyards declined subsequently. Some have put it down to an adverse change in the weather which made an uncertain enterprise even more problematic. Others have linked it with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Both these factors may have had some part to play but in all probability the decline was gradual (over several centuries) and for more complex reasons.

Eighteenth & nineteenth century experimenters

In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth century there is evidence of various noblemen experimenting with growing grapes and making wine – such as the Hon. Charles Hamilton who grew vines at Painshill in Surrey (a garden which has in recent years been restored).

black grapes ripening in a Midlands vineyard

In the late nineteenth century, the Marquess of Bute established a vineyard on a commercial scale at Castell Coch in South Wales – this is very well documented. The Marquess died in 1900 but in 1905 there were 63,000 vines at Castell Coch and Swanbridge superintended by the Marquess’s 19 year old son who had succeeded him, but no wine making seems to have been carried out after the First World War.

Twentieth century gap

The period from the end of the First World War to shortly after the end of the Second World War may well be the only time in two millennia that vines to make wine on a substantial scale were not grown in England or Wales. Doubtless, during that time, there were some vines being grown on a garden scale by amateur growers, but for more than 25 years there was a total cessation of viticulture and winemaking on a commercial basis.

Post-war pioneers

After the Second World War, two men seem to have been the inspiration for the re-establishment of the English Wine industry. One was Ray Barrington Brock (who died only this year). He was a research chemist and set himself a private research mission to discover which varieties of grape would grow and ripen well in Britain. The other was Edward Hymans, a writer on garden matters who planted a vineyard and researched for a book he was writing on the history and practice of grape-vine cultivation in England.

The work of these two pioneers inspired others: Major General Sir Guy Salisbury-Jones planted a vineyard at Hambledon, north of Portsmouth, in Hampshire. He initially planted 4,000 vines on a 1.5 acre site in 1952 and in 1955 the first English Wine to be made and sold commercially since the First World War went on sale.

Exponential growth

The rest, as they say, is history. An ever-increasing number of pioneers followed these leads and especially during the 1960s, 70s and 80s there was a rapid increase in the number of English vineyards to a figure well over 400 by the late 80s/early 90s. The total area under cultivation rose to more than 2,000 acres.

Black grapes (Rondo) at Sedlescombe organic vineyard, East SussexLook carefully – a superb crop of black Rondo grapes at Sedlescombe Organic Vineyard in East Sussex (1996)

The vast majority of these vineyards were small (5 acres or less, many less than 1 acre), whilst a few much larger vineyards emerged, such as Three Choirs near Newent in Gloucestershire. Denbies at Dorking in Surrey has, so far, marked the apogee of size in English vineyards, with around 250 acres under cultivation. Clearly such vineyards have been very serious commercial developments, but many small English vineyards have been retirement or "second-career" ventures, quite often by individuals or married couples wanting to escape the urban rat-race whilst still pursuing an occupation requiring both manual and intellectual challenges.

http://www.english-wine.com/history.html

 

We are familiar with wine making in the Middle Ages. What is probably less known is that winemaking was going strong in the 18th and 19thC.

Winemaking took off again in the 1950s, and following decades saw rapid growth.

The Guardian also claims “Changing climates, however, also bring weather unpredictability.”

This is absurd. As The History of English Wine points out:

In England, it is only in about 2 years in every 10 that grape production will be really good, 4 years will be average and 4 years poor or terrible – largely due to weather and/or disease exacerbated by weather.

English weather has always been totally unpredictable, and has always swung wildly from year to year.

As for the Guardian’s image of some sort of Mediterranean climate in England, brought by global heating, this is equally balderdash. No summer since has been as hot as that of 1976. Neither are summers getting drier:

 

Temperatures are not increasing year-on-year, as the Guardian falsely claims, and winemakers do not rely on that. What matters most to them is that a decent summer comes along every two or three years, to compensate for the occasional cold and wet ones.

The continued expansion of English winemaking has nothing to do with global warming. It is rather soundly based around economics. With the skills and reputation of English winemakers now high class, there is a lot of profit to be made.

As Wikipedia note:

Significant plantings have been happening across the south of the country with a number of farmers contract growing vines for some of the major English producers. Farmers are looking at the potential benefits of growing vines, as the return per tonne for grapes over more traditional crops are not to be ignored. A field of wheat might yield 3 tonnes per acre at around £120 per tonne. Growing grapes could yield 3 to 4 tonnes per acre at around £950 to £1100 per tonne.

 

But what does the Guardian know about making money?

30 Comments
  1. Gamecock permalink
    September 19, 2020 1:22 pm

    ‘Recent research showed the likelihood of the UK experiencing 40C temperatures for the first time was “rapidly accelerating” because of the climate emergency.’

    This is too stupid to comment on.

    ‘English vineyards introduce new grapes due to global heating’

    English vineyards react to their local conditions. ‘Global heating’ has no impact on their decisions.

  2. Up2snuff permalink
    September 19, 2020 1:27 pm

    If I recall correctly you need frost for some grapes, especially some white wine varieties, at harvest time. Cannot remember which one but faintly recall reading that a German grown grape can only be grown in a certain relationship to the sun on a valley hillside and has to be picked when frozen for the first time in the harvest season.

    • johnbillscott permalink
      September 19, 2020 2:07 pm

      Ice wine (or icewine; German: Eiswein) is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing for a more concentrated grape juice to develop,

      Ice wine is made after the first frost here in Canada. it can be too sweet for a lot of palate’s

      • Pancho Plail permalink
        September 19, 2020 2:28 pm

        An excellent dessert wine.
        I guess that the mere existence of Canadian wines would greatly upset the Grauniad, or perhaps they would take it as affirmation of “global heating”.

      • Up2snuff permalink
        September 20, 2020 7:04 pm

        Thanks for the memory jog, everyone.

        Is there a grape variety that needs frost in winter to trigger the new growth in springtime? I seem to recall some English apples and pears prefer some frost in winter but not so much that branches dry out and snap off trees.

    • Andy permalink
      September 20, 2020 11:13 am

      Icewine

  3. Broadlands permalink
    September 19, 2020 1:53 pm

    NATURE | VOL 432 | 18 NOVEMBER 2004 | Grape ripening as a past climate indicator…

    Summer temperature variations are reconstructed from harvest dates since 1370.

    “The inferred anomaly for the summer of 2003 represents an unprecedented event. It was +5.86 °C warmer than the reference period (1960–89), whereas the next highest anomaly during the whole period was +4.10 °C in 1523.”

    More misrepresentation… “inferred” to fit the global warming narrative?

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    September 19, 2020 2:24 pm

    My first thoughts on reading this piffle was, did they have a ‘climate emergency in England’s Roman period; or its Medieval period? I suspect not. I bet the Romans and Normans didn’t worry their heads about the warm weather they enjoyed – they probably thanked their Gods for the prosperity it brough. them.

    An interesting comparison chart would be one showing the productivity of wine over – say – the last 2k years compared to the recorded (or otherwise) temps in the same period (in England).

  5. wiggia permalink
    September 19, 2020 2:52 pm

    Pinot Noir may well head the table on percentage grown, but rightly as has been pointed out it has been planted here for some time but it’s ascendancy is related to its use in sparkling wines which is still the mainstay of English wine and has been on the up in sales and planting for some time now.
    In fact the first three in that chart are grown as constituents of sparkling wine ie Champagne
    As a still wine the usage is still quite small and the range of grapes used at the moment in still wines is also not exactly large.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      September 19, 2020 4:17 pm

      You are correct that Pinot Noir is a key variety for champagne, but it also produces excellent light fruity Burgundies (my favourite wines, now being well imitated in various countries at less expense, but I still like a Gevrey or Nuits at Christmas). Climate is just one of the variables that affect the suitability of grapes for particular wines. Different soils and topography (sloping valleys offer sharp drainage, and some will offer more sun exposure than others) also have a marked impact, as do degree of ripeness when harvesting, and subsequent processing of the grapes. The skins are separated from the pulp for whites, but remain as part of the mash for reds. Apologies for complicating matters. I had to research write about it all in French as a post O level project at school.

      There is a vineyard just a few hundred yards from me but I have never establishedwhich varieties they grow – there are also hops, and we have a vine in the garden. Small Concord grapes for ours, with a very variable harvest. Made grape jelly from them, but not wine.

      The vine I remember from childhood is this one

      https://www.hrp.org.uk/hampton-court-palace/whats-on/the-great-vine/

      Planted in 1768, although I recall there was alleged to be a vine there in the time of Henry VIII.

  6. C Lynch permalink
    September 19, 2020 3:28 pm

    What do truth and facts matter when you are going to save the world through global Marxism.

    • Gamecock permalink
      September 19, 2020 4:28 pm

      Good point. The issue is never the issue.

  7. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    September 19, 2020 5:06 pm

    Thanks Paul.
    Really like the history stuff.
    Some other information that kick-started research on grape growing:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylloxera#Fighting_the_%22phylloxera_plague%22

    Phylloxera: “ The epidemic devastated vineyards in Britain and then moved to the European mainland, destroying most of the European grape growing industry. In 1863, the first vines began to deteriorate inexplicably in the southern Rhône region of France.

    Because of this pest, Grape phylloxera (Daktulosphaira vitifoliae), European growers set out across the world to investigate suitable areas for Vitis vinifera. Further, efforts by growers and university researchers began to better understand all things grapes.

    The geography (and history) of wine growing is a great subject.
    And this book is a great start, if you can find a copy:

    H. Warner Allen’s “A History of Wine” (Faber, 1961)

  8. September 19, 2020 5:36 pm

    During the Medieval period (the MVP part), several monasteries located in the southern part of Sweden had their own vineyards.

  9. Albion of Wirral permalink
    September 19, 2020 5:42 pm

    Here on the Wirral, about twenty years ago a local farmer planted a number of fields with vines, ‘because the experts said that English summers were going to be hotter and drier with climate change’. A couple of years ago I noticed that he had dug them all up, and when I asked him about it, he replied that they weren’t producing useable fruit because of ‘this lousy summer weather year after year . . . ‘ Enough said! However, also here on the Wirral are a number of ‘Vineyard Field’ names shown on eighteenth-century maps, particularly in areas where the Romans probably dwelt, which implies that the climate then was well suited to the growing of vines.

  10. Jackington permalink
    September 19, 2020 5:57 pm

    Wow what a putdown! Thanks Paul and your oenological friends.

  11. Coeur de Lion permalink
    September 19, 2020 6:45 pm

    It’ll be very sad when the planet cools? Actually probably not. Vinous adaptability.

  12. bluecat57 permalink
    September 19, 2020 6:48 pm

    As I was reading I was going to comment that several historical shows from the UK had referenced vineyards. Such a horrible downside of Global Warming. Next thing you know Greenland will be green again. (Pun intended.)

  13. steve hyde permalink
    September 19, 2020 6:50 pm

    Resourceful Paul is spot on again, unfortunately Guardian readers are a long lost cause.

  14. September 19, 2020 8:36 pm

    Bravo Paul! Another one of your brilliant put-down articles with your evidence clearly tabulated and referenced – leaving the hapless victim destroyed in the dirt!

    Why am I reminded of the fight-to-the-death scene in Bruce Lee’s “Enter the Dragon” – where our hero takes on the chief antagonist and ends up impaling him on a spear? Wonderful stuff!

  15. Phillip Bratby permalink
    September 19, 2020 9:45 pm

    “Global heating” – that is the Moonbat speaking.

    This is history repeating itself in Devon. Never heard anything again about this olive grove planted in 2006:
    https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1522414/First-olive-grove-takes-root-in-sunny-Devon.html

    • Gerry, England permalink
      September 20, 2020 4:17 pm

      Are they still growing tea down there? Used to get it in Waitrose. Expensive but had a lovely taste.

  16. MrGrimNasty permalink
    September 19, 2020 11:43 pm

    These Pinot Noir clones are cool(er) climate grapes and 28C summers, let alone 40C summers, would ruin them (for the best wine)!

    “Pinot’s preference for cooler climes is best illustrated by observing that in France, pinot noir is grown almost exclusively in the chilly, northeastern regions of Burgundy and Champagne, and is not found at all in the southwestern region of Bordeaux, where cabernet sauvignon and merlot dominate.”

    Dijon clones 114, 115, 667 and 777 seem to be pretty much a standard selection, they have been around since the 70s and 80s. (The chosen rootstocks can also assist with adaptation to local conditions/diseases of course). The soil is as important as the climate.

    http://www.princeofpinot.com/article/945/

    Apparently New Zealand’s Gibbston Valley (Central Otago) is one of the coolest places these grapes are grown for wine (since 1976).

    https://www.hawksheadwine.com/hawkshead-central-otago-vineyard.html

    However their summers do seem to average maximum temperatures a good few degrees higher than Totnes, but that might be offset by careful selection of sun-facing slopes/micro-climate. Being influenced by the sea, I doubt Devon summer temperatures have change much in the last few decades. Bournemouth Airport (up to 2013) was the best I could find, it indicates no significant annual temperature change.

    Growing grapes in England for wine in modern times has probably always been possible for those willing to experiment with varieties and locations. The Guardian has dressed up commercial enterprise as a climate change story, if you ask me.

  17. Chaswarnertoo permalink
    September 20, 2020 9:30 am

    The Romans made wine from grapes grown in York….

  18. Iain Reid permalink
    September 20, 2020 10:31 am

    On a similar note, but beer rather than wine. this is a quote from a book, ‘The Family Brewers of Britain’ and is about Traquair House Brewery in the Scottish border area.

    “Hops once grew at Traquair but as the climate changed they died out in the eighteenth century”

    Well what a surprise, climate change without man’s influence!

  19. September 20, 2020 12:56 pm

    During the Medieval Warming (recently deleted by Michael Mann) England grew better grapes resulting in better wines than did France. That put the French noses out of joint. They also had a great variety of staple food items.

    Then when the Little Ice Age (also deleted by Michael-the-Great Mann) came, England adapted and began growing different grains, etc., but France refused. Thus more French staved than did English. Some things never change: the English adapt and the French whine over their wine.

    It is said that the explanation as to why the United States was more of a beer drinking population is because most of the early migrations were from England and Germany. My French connection (FitzRandolph/Ranulf) came across the Channel from Normandy with Bill in 1066. BTW, I do not like beer and never did–even in graduate school where it seemed to be a cultural necessity, I sat with my Coke.

  20. September 20, 2020 1:08 pm

    The Guardian seems to have quite an adverse reaction to the truth

    https://weatheraction.wordpress.com/2020/09/20/the-english-medieval-vineyards/

  21. Gerry, England permalink
    September 20, 2020 4:22 pm

    The increasingly variable weather caused by the changed jetstream pattern is a big threat to vineyards as we saw this year with not only frosts in April but a heavy frost in early May. Regions in France have suffered as well and in some cases two years running threatening the future of some producers.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      September 20, 2020 5:41 pm

      Citrus and the grapes get destroyed periodically all over the world, the the weather was actually more erratic in the 70s/80s.

      http://flcitrusmutual.com/render.aspx?p=/industry-issues/weather/freeze_timeline.aspx

      They’re actually deliberately restricting the Champagne grape harvest this year to avoid flooding the covid depressed demand.

      2020 Industry comments:-

      “The profile of this hot, dry year falls in-line with what we experienced in 2018 and 2019. Conditions have been good and crops less impacted by climate incidents such as frost and hail.”

      “The vines are in rude health in every area – said Vitalie Taittinger, CEO of Champagne Taittinger.”

      2017 WAS frost affected – grapes unlike a lot of plants can re-fruit from dormant buds if the first, even second flush, is killed by frost, you have to be particularly unlucky with the weather to get a wipe out.

      Far from the frost scare stories in the MSM earlier in the year (particularly bordeaux):

      https://www.decanter.com/wine-news/bordeaux-2020-white-wine-harvest-starts-early-443009/

  22. will davis permalink
    September 21, 2020 7:25 pm

    I grow white desert seedless grapes in sussex. I have to resign myself to having an edible crop no more than once every other year at best (good 2020)There are several vineyards within 5 miles of here growing blanc de blanc amongst varieties which can produce a good vintage but not every year. We have one of the best climates in the country for wine production therefore I suspect Devon will not be commercial wine producing county this century, with or without AGW. I recently visited a large vineyard in Surrey ( 30 miles further north) where they have on average a good vintage every 3 years! Visitors and accomodation is how they made their money!

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