Climate change prompts Syrah trials in Burgundy

A glass of Burgundian Shiraz, or would you prefer a Beaulojais Cru blended with Syrah? With the emergence of secret trials on Syrah as far north as Macon near Beaujolais prompted by global warming and climate change, these wines could become France’s top wines of the future.

Officially, Burgundy’s Wine board, the BIVB says that the focus is now on developing with the Champenois, new disease-resistant hybrids, rather than trials on Syrah, however Harpers can reveal that a handful of producers have successfully experimented with Syrah and this is leading for a new push for the late-ripening grape variety to play a commercial role in Beaujolais and even further north in Burgundy. 

“We are not planting or experimenting with Syrah, but technically, it would be a very good idea to have Syrah grown in Beaujolais: adding Syrah to Gamay would add complexity to Beaujolais Crus,” said Laurent Chevalier, director of Henry Fessy, a leading Beaujolais Cru producer.

Wine and Vine expert, Guillaume Morvan in Burgundy’s Chamber of Agriculture believes there now needs to be an official policy for experimental Syrah plantings in Burgundy.

Morvan said the BIVB’s current official policy on adaption to climate change was insufficient to ensure the successful future of wine production in the southern reaches of Burgundy.

“With a two or three degree increase in temperature, the reliance on the most heat-resistant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines won’t be enough in my opinion,” Morvan told Harpers.

“We have to start planting Syrah; with climate change, we need a project and this should be done officially within the next ten years: it take time to plant and cultivate new varieties of course.” said Morvan,

“Planting Syrah would be a true revolution in Burgundy; but it is politically sensitive,” Morvan said.

In a study on Climate Change elaborated by Burgundy’s Environmental Agencies between 2010 and 2012, France’s national institute of origin and quality, the INAO, said it could envisage the plantings of late-ripening varieties such as Syrah in Beaujolais. Officially, Burgundy’s wine board, the BIVB says there are no experiments with Syrah. “I do not have any knowledge of planting trials with Syrah or other varieties in Burgundy in relation to the adaptation to climate change,” said Jean-Phillippe Gervais, Technical and Quality Director of the BIVB.

“We are working on the characterisation of the genetic diversity of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grape varieties and we expect to draw from this reservoir of diversity in terms of adaptation [to climate change]. To this aim we are building a Conservatory for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay,” Gervais revealed to Harpers. 

The BIVB added that it had no plans to officially endorse Syrah plantings saying that its key focus was rather on combating diseases such as Mildew with the plantings of trials on new hybrids expected in 2018.



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