With climate change nudging global temperatures to record highs, winemakers continue to grapple with the vagaries of the weather, watching on as grapes ripen prematurely, losing the nuances of flavour that cooler climes coax from the delicate fruit.
Growers of Old World wines, which have for centuries produced some of the most coveted grand cru wines in the vinophile sphere, are increasingly finding it difficult to produce their award-winning wines. Bound by AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee) laws which set out rules and regulations dictating the classification of AOC wine, those winemakers find themselves at the mercy of the weather, which forms an essential part of the terroir they seek to express in each bottling.
“If the weather is always hot and the wines turn out super alcoholic year after year, the winemakers can’t irrigate (their grapes) to make the wines softer,” says Mason Ng, the 24-year-old co-head sommelier at wine bar Park90.
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At the age of 19, Ng became Asia’s youngest certified sommelier. No mean feat, as one third of applicants fail the series of tests set out by the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Ng says that Old World winemakers that are willing to break tradition and depart from AOC classifications can negate unfavourable weather conditions by manipulating other growth factors. “Winemakers, for example those in France, can choose to declassify their wines. So a Chateauneuf-du-Pape might simply be known as a ‘Vin de France’. That’s what a lot of modern producers are doing in Europe to make their wines more approachable or lighter in style.”
While declassified wines might serve the needs of winemakers, consumers will find themselves with one less roadmap to navigate their cellar. “While wineries are free to experiment, consumers no longer know what to expect from a bottle. You can have a cabernet sauvignon that ends up lighter than a gamay or pinot noir. It will be confusing.”