Good wines linked to warmer temperatures and higher rainfall, research finds

New research suggests weather plays an important role in creating a ‘good wine’ (Alamy/PA)
New research suggests weather plays an important role in creating a ‘good wine’ (Alamy/PA) New research suggests weather plays an important role in creating a ‘good wine’ (Alamy/PA)

Warm temperatures and higher rainfall – both of which are expected to become more common with climate change – are the key to producing good wines, research suggests.

Experts led by the University of Oxford analysed 50 years’ worth of wine critic scores from the Bordeaux region of France and compared them with that year’s weather.

The results suggested higher quality wine was made in the years with warmer temperatures, higher winter rainfall, and earlier, shorter growing seasons – conditions that are expected to become more frequent with climate change.

Study author Andrew Wood, from the Department of Biology at the University of Oxford, said: “Weather drives wine quality and wine taste.

“We found evidence that temperature and precipitation effects occur throughout the year – from bud break, while the grapes are growing and maturing, during harvesting, and even over winter when the plant is dormant.”

The research, published in the journal iScience, concluded that as the “climate continues to change, the quality of Bordeaux wines may continue to improve”.

The researchers also said they suspect their results will apply to other wine regions.

For the analysis, the team looked at climate data and annual wine critic scores from Bordeaux between 1950 and 2020.

They chose Bordeaux because it is a wine region that relies on rainfall for irrigation and there is a wealth of wine critic score data and merchant wine score data.

Experts examined how the weather influences wine quality at both a regional and local scale.

Overall, the researchers found Bordeaux wine quality scores tended to improve between 1950 and 2020.

Bordeaux’s climate warmed over that period but the team suggested better wine-making or adjustments for consumer likes and dislikes may also play a role.

Bordeaux vineyard
Bordeaux vineyard The research focused on wine produced in the Bordeaux region of France (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

Mr Wood said: “The trend, whether that’s driven by the preferences of wine critics or the general population, is that people generally prefer stronger wines which age for longer and give you richer, more intense flavours, higher sweetness, and lower acidity.

“With climate change, generally we are seeing a trend across the world that with greater warming, wines are getting stronger.”

The team found that weather impacted wine quality throughout the year, not just during the growing season.

They also found high-quality wines were produced with cooler, wetter winters; warmer, wetter springs; hot, dry summers; and cool, dry autumns.

Mr Wood said: “With the predicted climates of the future, given that we are more likely to see these patterns of warmer weather and less rainfall during the summer and more rainfall during the winter, the wines are likely to continue to get better into the future.”

But he warned they may only improve up to a point.

“The problem in scenarios where it gets really hot is water: if plants don’t have enough, they eventually fail, and when they fail, you lose everything,” he said.

“But the general idea or consensus is that the wines will continue to get better up to the point where they fail.”