Richard Selley Global Warming and Wine in Britain
This show was published 26 January 2007
In the last 50 years modern English and Welsh winemaking has gathered pace, but vines have been native to the UK for 50 million years. But 2 million years ago at the start of the current ice age, the native vines died out. Most people do not realise that the Earth is in the grips of an ice age when, at its peak, glaciers were 2 miles deep in Scotland and Wales and spread all the way to London. However, we are now in a relatively warm phase of the ice age. What bothers scientists about global warming is that in theory we should be cooling off with the growth of glaciers, but it is getting warmer not cooler.
But even the relative warm period of the last 10,000 years has not seen stable temperature. 2000 years ago during Roman times when Britain was slightly warmer than it is now, grapes where grown as far north as Lincolnshire, but the temperature dropped significantly during the Dark ages before warming and the dropping again during what is called the Saxon Sag. These temperature drops put significant pressure on wine making and, given Saxons were beer & mead drinkers, winemaking was not encouraged.
Since the start of the industrial revolution and the warming of England in the mid 19th and 20th century, vineyards have been gradually reestablished as far North as Leeds. Richard Selley has mapped out vineyards in England and noticed that their is a correlation between the ebb and flow of viticulture and the temperature changes seen in England over the last 2000 years, similar changes are also seen in the area under vine in Germany. While Global warming is a concern for many industries, the UK viticulture is one country that will benefit if current climate change continues, our grandchildren could be drinking Sheffield Shiraz, Manchester Merlot or even Glasgow Gewurtz!
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