Climate change disrupting French and Italian vineyards as Belgian wine soars
Alex Cadier in Belgium
Europe's traditional wine-making heartlands are struggling as a result of volatile climate, with producers in parts of France and Italy scrambling to save this year's harvest.
A combination of frost earlier in the year and climate change-driven heatwaves this summer means that some vineyards are taking drastic measures to salvage what they can from this year's vintage.
Some vineyards near Bordeaux have been watering their vines in the hopes of mitigating the effects of the heat, a practise strictly regulated and rarely permitted in French vineyards, except in times of exceptionally bad drought.
Producers in Italy's Tuscany region are facing similar challenges, as the heat leads to earlier, and smaller harvests.
Despite this, these heatwaves haven't been detrimental to all wine producing regions, with a record breaking surge in production predicted for the new kid on the block, Belgium.
According to Pierre Rion, president of the Association of Walloon Winemakers, the hot weather has a silver lining.
"Climate change has had two effects. The first is on the harvest: warm and dry summers mean our crops are mature and healthy," he says. "But the warm weather also reassures our consumers, who link good weather to good wine, so Belgian consumers are increasingly turning to Belgian wine, because they trust our production because of the warmer weather."
The owners of the 17th century Chateau de Bioul in southern Belgium, which have been producing wine for ten years, have seen this confidence reflected in their sales, both domestically and abroad.
Even Belgian companies have started taking notice, with Brussels Airlines and Air Belgium both stocking Chateau de Bioul wines in their first class cabins.
These relative newcomers to the wine industry have just completed their first large international shipment, with 600 bottles sold to restaurants across New York City.
In 2018, Belgium produced 2 million bottles, a record which Rion thinks the country's vineyards are on course to beat this year.
"All the conditions have been met this year, we have nice flowering, nice fruits and very little disease. I think we're going to beat the record. What's more, since the 2018 record, we've seen a 30 percent increase in Belgium's wine producing land."
Despite this bumper year for Belgian wines, their production remains much smaller than Europe's established winemakers.
However, even by breaking their own two million bottle record, Belgian producers still have some catching up to do, trailing far behind the 600 million bottles produced in France's Bordeaux region alone.