Vineyards Spread as Climate Warms, Wine Author Robinson Says

Vineyards are spreading in regions including China and northern Europe as rising global temperatures permit grapes to ripen in more marginal areas and demand spreads to new markets, wine author Jancis Robinson said.

“Pretty much anywhere that can grow vines is now,” Robinson said in an interview with Anna Edwards and Mark Barton on Bloomberg Television’s “Countdown” yesterday. “It’s become a kind of rich man’s dream.”

Robinson, co-author with Hugh Johnson of the new seventh edition of the World Atlas of Wine, said the geography of the wine industry has evolved significantly in the six years since the last edition of the book. Higher temperatures in northern Europe are driving the sparkling-wine industry in southern England and allowing German vintners to produce riper grapes, while demand in China is encouraging more local vineyards.

“The shape of the wine world has changed,” Robinson said. “Vineyards are going polewards. Even Scandinavia now has the odd vineyard, and of course Asia is huge, so much bigger. China’s now a very important player as a consumer and a producer.”

While longer-term trends are highlighting the spread of vines into less traditional areas, as shown in the atlas published by Mitchell Beazley, seasonal fluctuations still affect annual crop sizes.

Chinese Demand

In March this year the International Organisation of Vine and Wine, or OIV, released figures showing world wine production dropped 6 percent in 2012, reflecting smaller grape crops in France, Spain and Argentina. At the same time it said world wine consumption rose 0.6 percent.

While demand from China helped drive plantings and prices in recent years, encouraging Bordeaux wine producers to seek sales in the region, some of that momentum has now slowed.

“The Bordelais in particular courted the Chinese market,” Robinson said. “Although prices shot up, helped a bit by this influx of capital from China, the market’s stagnated a bit recently.”

As Chinese buyers saw “investments weren’t gaining in value as fast as they’d been told they would, they’ve come out of the market a bit now,” she said.

Changing consumer perceptions of wine are helping spur demand in some regions including parts of Latin America where other drinks including beer are more traditional, Robinson said.

“Mexico now has a bit of a wine culture, whereas it was a beer-drinking country and still is substantially,” Robinson said. Demand is evolving in “all sorts of unexpected places.”

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