Climate change is likely to increase the potential for wine production

A new study reveals how climate change is increasing wine production capacity in the UK. This has conditions which, according to projections, resemble those of the well-known cultivation regions of Germany and France.

Image Credit: Gill Copeland/

Over the past two decades, climate change has resulted in an increase in UK vineyard acreage with over 800 vineyards and award-winning wine production, as well as a shift in wine style towards sparkling wines .

Currently, a research group from the University of East Anglia (UEA), London School of Economics, Vinescapes Ltd and Weatherquest Ltd have charted the potential of the sector over the next two decades. Drawing on the latest elaborate climate projections, they have developed state-of-the-art potential to model and map the best odds for viticulture and winemaking in the UK.

Their findings were recently reported in the journal OENO Oneshowing how the climate of a greater region of England and Wales should prove ideal for reliably growing sparkling wine varietals, and how the capacity for high quality still wine production is rapidly emerging.

We have seen viticulture in the UK expand by nearly 400%, from 761 to 3,800 hectares between 2004 and 2021.. During this period, global warming has supported a much more reliable yield and quality of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes – these grapes are blended in the production of Champagne-style sparkling wine..

Steve Dorling, Study Principal Investigator and Professor, School of Environmental Science, University of East Anglia

Dorling also associated with forecasting company Weatherquest Ltd added: “Hot and dry growing seasons in the UK like 2018, with below average disease problems in the vines, led to the production of a record 15.6 million bottles and these growing conditions are already have become and should become more common..”

The Climate Resilience in the UK Wine Sector (CREWS-UK) project has been financially supported by the Natural Environment Research Council under the UK Climate Resilience Program.

The researchers took into account how often rising climatic conditions in the UK were projected to match those seen recently in the most famous sparkling and still wine producing regions of France’s Burgundy and Champagne regions, and in Baden, Germany.

Their results highlight that from the 1980s there has already been a warming of more than 1°C at the time of the growing season in much of south-east and east England. It was a change that was one of the main catalysts for growth and varietal change in the UK wine sector during this period.

This work is a first in the UK, a unique combination of climate change science, viticulture and viticultural expertise. We found that significant areas in England and Wales are projected to warm by 2040 by up to an additional 1.4°C during the growing season.

Dr Alistair Nesbitt, Study Lead Author, Vineyard and Winery Consultancy Vinescapes Ltd

Nesbitt continued:This expands the area of ​​suitability of Pinot Noir for the production of sparkling wine, but also new areas will open up in the range of suitability of growing season temperatures for the production of still Pinot Noir and for the cultivation of varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Sémillon and others more resistant to disease. varieties, which are hardly grown in the UK at present.”

Additionally, anyone considering investing in a vineyard in the UK can now benefit from this knowledge through advice on the best locations, both current and future under the conditions of climate change.added Nesbitt.

The research team used the UK Climate Projections 2018 scenarios to assess the future suitability of wine variety and style in the UK, as well as the potential for winery investment, sector adaptation and climate resilience. beyond the 2021-2040 period.

Regions of East Anglia, South Central England, Lincolnshire, North East Wales and coastal areas of South West England and South Wales are expected to experience the “ conditions” of 2018 between 2021 and 2040 in 60 to 75% of the years. This implies that the unusual 2018 vintage will become very common.

At the same time, large areas of South East and East England are expected to fall into an ideal range for the production of still red Pinot Noir. Already, while Pinot Noir for sparkling wine is being grown successfully in the UK, projected increases in seasonal temperatures currently point to the new and growing opportunity for still Pinot Noir production in a few regions.

We have shown that in parts of the UK the exceptional 2018 vintage will become the norm and that Champagne region grape growing temperatures from 1999 to 2018 are expected to occur in an expanding region of England between 2021 and 2040.

Dr Alistair Nesbitt, Study Lead Author, Vineyard and Winery Consultancy Vinescapes Ltd

Nesbitt added:In some years, a few regions of the UK may see growing season climates similar to those that have contributed to the best recent Champagne vintages, as well as increased potential for Burgundy and Baden style still red wines..”

Researchers warn that there are still many hurdles to overcome, arguing that the industry must remain flexible and not ‘lock in’ production that cannot adapt to changing growing conditions due to rapidly changing market conditions. British climate.

Professor Dorling said: “Exciting times lie ahead for the UK wine sector, but our findings have underscored the challenge of establishing wine identities and brands, particularly those closely associated with wine varieties and styles, in a climate rapidly evolving..”

UK weather can still be erratic, as illustrated by the 2012 vintage when much of the UK grape production was lost due to the cool and very wet flowering period. Year-to-year climate variability will tend to continue, such as early season frost risk, even if longer-term trends are considered good.

Furthermore, sustainable investment decisions in vineyards and wineries will always require careful analysis of all threats to the growth environment and the market.

Dr Nesbitt said: “Through our consultancy services, our Vinescapes and Weatherquest teams enjoy supporting the sustainable growth of the UK wine sector and we are extremely grateful to WineGB, the industry body, for facilitating all engagement that we have had with grape growers and wine producers around the world. the CREWS-UK project.”

Journal reference:

Nesbitt, A. and Al. (2022) Climate change projections for UK viticulture to 2040: a focus on improving the suitability of Pinot noir. OENO A.


Shirley M. Pinder