A third category of grapes is being created to let growers develop heartier fruit.

By Mike Pomranz
November 15, 2018
PHILIPPE DESMAZES/Getty Images

France is extremely strict about the varieties of grapes it allows vineyards to grow in its wine regions: There are reasons Bordeaux wines are produced one way and Burgundy wines another that go beyond tradition and, instead, are written into the hundreds of different sets of Appellation d’Origine Controlee (of AOC) regulations. With that in mind, it’s extremely telling — and even a bit frightening — that France has reportedly made a significant change to its AOC rules specifically to deal with the threat of climate change.

According to The Drinks Business, France’s Institut national de l’origine et de la qualité (INAO) — the organization which handles all of the country’s Protected Designations of Origin (which includes AOCs) — has approved a third category of grape varieties that will be permitted under AOC rules. Currently, AOCs are allowed main and accessory cultivars, but the INAO is apparently adding a new "grape varieties for climate and environmental adaptation" category which will allow regions to conduct their own research and development on varietals that can potentially fend off the effects of global warming by being disease resistant or by being generally more viable under shifting conditions. "The change is fueled by our desire to take into account environmental issues advocated by society and to adapt to climate change," the chairman of the INAO wine board Christian Paly was quoted as saying.

These loosened regulations reportedly come with plenty of restrictions of their own. The Drinks Business explains that growers will have to sign into ten-year agreements with the INAO at which point the new varieties will be re-evaluated. Additionally, on a larger scale, the INAO has apparently put restrictions on things like the number of new varieties and percentage of these varieties as a part of overall production. Still, the fact that France would make any adjustment to its tradition-driven wine system at all specifically to account for climate change would seem like another major example of just how serious this issue continues to be.

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