“Laccave” wines adapted to the climate of tomorrow


More concentrated, richer in alcohol, less acidic. That is what our glass of red wine may look like in 2050. The effects of climate change on vine and wine have been described. Therefore, research is now aiming at preparing the entire wine sector for the climate of tomorrow.

The second phase of the Laccave project, coordinated by INRA since 2012, aims at giving operational paths for adaptation at national, regional and local scale for each region and each vineyard (read more about Laccave 2.21).

1,4 °C. This is the average rise in air temperature in France since 1900.

« As for the whole agricultural production viticulture is preparing itself for a warmer and drier climate and  the impact it will have on the functioning of vineyards, yield and composition  of grapes, wine making and  vineyard location », Nathalie Ollat explains.

Since 2012, this vineyard expert  co-leads the Laccave project « Long-term adaptation to climate change for the grape and wine industry» together with her colleague Jean-Marc Touzard (INRA Researcher and Economist).

Laccave is an initiative of INRA researchers to answer questions from professionals: how to help stakeholders in the wine sector to prepare for the climate of tomorrow? Work conducted from 2012 to 2016 studied the long-term impacts of climate change on the vineyard. Scientists have also explored 4 ways of adaptation for the wine regions of France in order to define local strategies.

Nathalie Ollat points back to the issues, needs and approach adopted for the second phase of the project running until 2021.

How will the continuation of Laccave contribute ?

Nathalie Ollat: We enter a more operational phase of the project. The question behind the work carried out has always been : what do we do to adapt ? We have studied several levers of adaptation in phase 1. Our approach with the continuation of the project is to assert that there is not a single solution but a set of solutions that must be combined in more complex strategies. We must examine and make these strategies more operational to help professionals start adapting on a case by case basis.

Can you give an example ?

N. Ollat: Water management is one of the major issues that requires complex expertise. We cannot just say that we need to irrigate. How can we anticipate the future to know what practice to implement already now. The idea is to provide professionals with « eco-climate » indicators on growing conditions in 2050 for each region and each vineyard. To obtain precise figures we use simulations from climatologues linked with data on the functioning of vine. Thus we can quantify projections on stress suffered by vine in 2050, heat waves during the development of the grapes or frost periods in spring.

French vineyards are uneven by their terroirs, surfaces or production volumes. Shouldn’t we plan to take measures on an à la carte basis to adapt to climate change ?

N. Ollat: There is no turnkey solution. Adaptation mobilizes participatory approaches. Our objective is to co-construct these solutions with stakeholders at 3 levels: at national scale with representative organisations of vine & wine sector. At local scale, at the scale of the vineyard, we help organisations managing protected designations of origin to experiment cropping systems resistant to climate change. And finally at regional scale we accompany collective training and information initiatives to encourage the sharing of experiences and help wine growers and their organisations define their adaptation strategies

What about the future of french viticulture in the world of tomorrow ? 

N. Ollat: In 2013, an American study published that 50% of French vineyards would disappear in 2050 because of climate change and the scarcity of water resources. But rainfalls is the most misjudged parameter for now. By 2050, technical solutions will have emerged to better withstand droughts and higher temperatures, accompany relocation of vineyards or change of type of wine. For example the grape variety is likely to evolve and this solution is already considered by the organizations managing designations of origin. Since 2018, winemakers are allowed to introduce external grapes in their specifications. In Bordeaux, unauthorized varieties are tested for better adaptation to climate change while ensuring that they are consistent with the typical Bordeaux wines.

At INRA, we have an experimental setup with 52 different grape varieties from southern and western Europe. We are studying them to see how they could meet Bordeaux wine production of tomorrow. Everything is on track for this evolution.

But climate change is not the only issue for the sector. China is an important competitor because it has a diversity of climatic regions, is capable of producing large volumes and has a large market. In Europe, northern vineyards are expected to develop, especially in the south of England, some in Sweden, which is out of proportion to Chinese surfaces. But I think that the French viticulture is well armed at the international level to keep a leadership in terms of surfaces, quantity and quality of wines.


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