17th May, 2013 by Rupert Millar
Winemaker Michel Chapoutier has called for water to be re-introduced to winemaking to help counter rising alcohol levels.
As previously reported by db, Chapoutier has questioned the findings of a study into the effect of climate change on vineyard regions.
However, he was more concerned with the immediate problems of rising alcohol levels brought about by increasing CO2 levels.
He noted that one of his wines, single vineyard Le Pavillon from Ermitage, had seen an alcohol increase of 12.5% to 14% between the 1990s and now.
“How can we counter this?” he asked, “perhaps new yeasts with higher consumption.
“In Bordeaux they can drop Merlot and introduce more Cabernet Sauvignon.”
He also said that he had suggested to the INAO that in Roussillon, more heat resistant grape varieties such as Touriga Naçional might be admitted to the AOP.
He also suggested higher density planting, which would encourage roots to go deeper as well as meaning each vine is able to shade the other and also grafting – attaching new shoots to existing rootstock rather than simply up-rooting vines.
“But people don’t want to take the time,” he conceded.
However, he was most in favour of adding water to achieve lower alcohol levels without diluting the taste.
He described it as a much easier way of reducing alcohol without the costly and relatively destructive techniques of reverse osmosis.
He said that in tests he had conducted, the wine with water was the preferred of all the samples.
On the other hand, as with grafting, it is not a method that winemakers are keen to either discuss or practice, this time due to the negative impression they fear such a technique would impress upon consumers.
Finally though he added that the ability of vines themselves to adapt to climatic changes should not be underestimated.
“Plants are able to adapt quickly to disease and temperature,” he said, “much more quickly than animals in fact as they cannot run away as animals can.
“There have been tests with tomatoes which show that within a generation or two the plants have readjusted to various changes.”