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How Winemakers Are Responding to Climate Change—in the Cellar

There’s only so much that can be done in the vineyards. The rest takes place during the winemaking process.

Three previously unthinkable incidents so far during the summer of 2021 have put the severity of the new climate reality into stark relief: the high-pressure heat dome that roasted the Pacific Northwest, killing hundreds and shattering temperature records from California to British Columbia, the wildfires in Oregon that have been so severe they created their own weather patterns and sent clouds of smoke as far as Manhattan, and the devastating floods in western Europe that destroyed entire towns and killed at least 200 people. Even climate scientists who spend their days modeling dire climate futures based on current data have been shocked.

At Chêne Bleu in the Southern Rhône, the team also “plays around with the specific blend of our wines,” says co-owner Nicole Rolet. “We prefer to deal with the grapes from a warmer vintage upfront during the fermentation process, rather than the aging process. So we typically conduct fermentation at a cooler temperature to keep the extraction levels down, and we adjust the blends. For example, in Le Rosé, we increase the percentage of vermentino in a hotter vintage, to 12%, from 5% in a normal year.”

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How Winemakers Are Responding to Climate Change—in the Cellar