Climate change is set to increase the potential for wine production in the UK, and allow growers to branch out into new products, a study has found.
Global warming has already contributed to a growing number of vineyards in the UK, with more than 800 found in the country, producing award-winning products with a focus on sparkling wines.
Researchers say that in the next two decades, the climate of a larger area of England and Wales is projected to become suitable for reliably growing sparkling wine grape varieties – and there is potential for producing high-quality still wines.
The conditions seen in the bumper year of 2018 for UK wine production will become the “norm” for some areas of the UK, and resemble those in famous wine-producing areas of France and Germany.
While climate change is bringing increasing weather extremes to the UK, with heavy downpours, flooding and heatwaves all expected to worsen amid rising temperatures, the ability to grow new crops is recognized as one of the more positive impacts.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA), the London School of Economics, Vinescapes Ltd and Weatherquest Ltd have used climate projects to model and map the best opportunities for grape growing and wine making in the next 20 years.
The results show that since the 1980s, there has already been warming of more than 1C in much of the South East and southern England, with more warming to come.
From 2021-2040, areas in East Anglia, Lincolnshire, south-central England, north-east Wales and coastal areas in south-west England and southern Wales are projected to have 2018 “conditions” around 60-75% of the time, making the exceptional vintage seen in that year more common.
Large areas of southern England will be suitable for production of Pinot Noir for still red wine, as well as for the sparkling wine which is already grown in the UK.
The study’s lead author, Dr Alistair Nesbitt, of vineyard and winery consultancy Vinescapes, said: “We found that significant areas within England and Wales are projected to become warmer by 2040 by up to a further 1.4C during the growing season.
“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.
He said: “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 .
“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.”
But the study, published in the journal OENO One, also warns the rapidly changing climate means the industry needs to stay agile – and British weather can still be unpredictable, with the ongoing risk of early season frosts.