Will global warming kill the champagne industry?

These photographs, by champagne enthusiast and photographer Victor Pugatschew may look strange and beautiful, but they’re not something that gladdens the hearts of champagne houses. A fortnight ago in Champagne, vineyards report temperatures plunging to as low as -7C.  The frost proceeded an unusually warm spring which saw early shooting of the vines, however it’s been estimated that up to a quarter had been destroyed.

“Vines damaged early in the season will experience a second growth above the damaged leaf, but this second growth won’t produce the same amount of fruit that the original one would have, so yield will be lower,” says champagne educator and creator of Australia’s first champagne festival, Effervescence Amanda Reboul, who was in Champagne during the frosts.

Photos by Victor Pugatschew

The loss in the Champagne has been estimated to be even worse than last year, when spring frosts and mildew took out more than 20% of vines.

“According to Hugues Godme, a grower from the Grand Cru Village of Verzenay about 30% in total have been affected,” Amanda says, “but in his case, the main impact was on the vines he used for his single vineyard releases. One of his parcels was 100% destroyed, meaning he won’t be producing that particular cuvee this coming year.”

Amanda Reboul – Champagne educator

The bigger, non-grower houses are in a better position, according to Amanda.

“Benoit Gouez, chef de cave from Moet et Chandon told me that because they have such a large buying base and are able to source grapes from a lot of places, they’re better off than the growers. But it’s a bit too soon to know if their production will be affected.”

The jury is out as to whether this is a result of climate change, or just an unusual weather event, Amanda says, but with losses for the second year in a row, it’s a debate that’s heating up an unusually frosty Champagne.


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