Be wary, wine lovers: Climate change can muck with your merlots. By tracking the timing of French and Swiss grape harvests from 1600 through 2007, scientists have discovered that the link between high temperatures and drought conditions — a crucial combination for fine wine production — has broken down since 1980.
Warm conditions hasten grape maturation, requiring early harvests. In the past, warm springs and summers often coincided with scarce rainfall that produced good harvesting conditions. Climate change, however, produces higher temperatures in France and Switzerland independent of low rainfall. Harvest-delaying rainstorms increasingly prevent winemakers from collecting their warmth-matured crop at the optimum time, worsening wine quality, the scientists report March 21 in Nature Climate Change.