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A data review studying harvest and climate information all the way back to the year 1354 has concluded that summers in Burgundy are drier and hotter more often than they used to be. For winemakers, this means Burgundy grape harvest dates are getting earlier. This suggests an acceleration in global warming, particularly over the past three decades where picking has begun 13 days earlier on average than historically.  

Thibaut de Roux studies Burgundy wines through his wine tasting course at Burgundy University and has a fine wine collection in excess of 2,000 bottles. Climate is a key factor in the production of wine, with the most pronounced effects of global warming expected in the northern hemisphere. Climate change affects not only affects the time of the harvest, but also numerous other contributing factors including rainfall and increases in the amount of carbon dioxide. 

Melting Alpine Glaciers 

The increasingly rapid melting of the alpine glaciers can be attributed to the higher frequency of summers that are hotter and drier than in the past. 

High temperatures have also been associated with high temperatures, with early harvest dates caused in part by atmospheric blocking over Denmark and high pressure over the central and western areas of Europe. While a spike in heat doesn’t necessarily mean the harvest date will be early, the analysis shows a growing trend towards earlier harvests that seems unlikely to change any time soon. 

Timing the Harvests 

The dates of grape harvests for wine must be properly timed to consider numerous factors, such as moisture and temperature. Grapes were typically harvested from the 28th September in the Burgundy region until 1987. The average start date of the harvest since 1988 has been the 15th September. This demonstrates the effect of global warming, which has accelerated over the past 30 years. The results were compared by scientists to detailed records of temperatures in Paris dating back 360 years or more. 

The Burgundy Wine Region 

The Burgundy wine region is characterised by small family firms, or domaines that still operate like these types of firms.

Each domaine is typically handed down through the generations, meaning the successor of each vineyard will have different skills, or lack thereof. This results in many changes in style coming into play over the years as new generations come to the forefront with new ideas, which may be more or less successful than those of their parents.  

Burgundy wines have a zesty hallmark that can be attributed to the geographical history of the region. Around 200 million years ago, the area was underneath tropical seas. This created a lot of limestone in the soil, which gives the wines of Burgundy today their unique flavours. 

Winemaking in the region can be dated back as far as the first century AD, in the time of the Romans, although the establishment of the vineyards that led to modern wine production occurred in the Middle Ages. Catholic monks at this time grew grapes for winemaking for the aristocracy of Burgundy as well as for the church. Following the French revolution, church lands were given back to the people and the modern culture of winemaking in Burgundy as we know it was born.