The average temperature in Sussex is a degree warmer than it was for most of the 20th century, with practical implications for the region’s vineyards.
However, anyone who thinks that climate change will provide a simple good news story for English wine-lovers may be deluding themselves. In England, depending on what happens to the gulf stream and other variables, it might become hotter, wetter or, perhaps, even colder . All that climate change really promises is chaos and instability, which are not conditions that are beneficial for grapes or any other crop.
Until relatively recently, the English wine industry tended to rely on high-yield, cold climate Germanic vines with names like tractor manufacturers: Huxelrebe and Dornfelder among others.
Although these are still present in many vineyards, many Sussex vignerons are now planting the classic “champagne” grapes: chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. The sparkling wines produced with those varieties by local producers, such as Nyetimber and Ridgeview , among others, have regularly beaten champagne in international competitions and blind tastings. “The temperatures in this area are now pretty much where champagne’s were in the 1980s,” says Mark Driver. “And they made some pretty good champagne in the 70s and 80s.”
Find out more about how Sussex wine growers are already adapting to a shifting climate.