Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Climate change decouples drought from early wine grape harvests in France


Across the world, wine grape phenology has advanced in recent decades1,2,3, in step with climate-change-induced trends in temperature—the main driver of fruit maturation—and drought. Fully understanding how climate change contributes to changes in harvest dates, however, requires analysing wine grape phenology and its relationship to climate over a longer-term context, including data predating anthropogenic interference in the climate system. Here, we investigate the climatic controls of wine grape harvest dates from 1600–2007 in France and Switzerland using historical harvest4 and climate data5,6,7. Early harvests occur with warmer temperatures (−6 days °C−1) and are delayed by wet conditions (+0.07 days mm−1; +1.68 days PDSI−1) during spring and summer. In recent decades (1981–2007), however, the relationship between harvest timing and drought has broken down. Historically, high summer temperatures in Western Europe, which would hasten fruit maturation, required drought conditions to generate extreme heat. The relationship between drought and temperature in this region, however, has weakened in recent decades and enhanced warming from anthropogenic greenhouse gases can generate the high temperatures needed for early harvests without drought. Our results suggest that climate change has fundamentally altered the climatic drivers of early wine grape harvests in France, with possible ramifications for viticulture management and wine quality.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Grape harvest date anomalies (GHD-Core).
Figure 2: Twentieth-century analysis between climate observations and GHD-Core.
Figure 3: Twentieth-century analysis between climate observations and GHD-Core.
Figure 4: Analysis between palaeoclimate reconstructions and GHD-Core.


  1. Duchêne, E. & Schneider, C. Grapevine and climatic changes: a glance at the situation in Alsace. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 25, 93–99 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Seguin, B. & de Cortazar, I. G. Climate warming: consequences for viticulture and the notion of ‘terroirs’ in Europe. Acta Hort. 689, 61–69 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Webb, L. B., Whetton, P. H. & Barlow, E. W. R. Observed trends in winegrape maturity in Australia. Glob. Change Biol. 17, 2707–2719 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Daux, V. et al. An open-access database of grape harvest dates for climate research: data description and quality assessment. Clim. Past 8, 1403–1418 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Luterbacher, J., Dietrich, D., Xoplaki, E., Grosjean, M. & Wanner, H. European seasonal and annual temperature variability, trends, and extremes since 1500. Science 303, 1499–1503 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cook, E. R. et al. Old World megadroughts and pluvials during the common era. Sci. Adv. 1, e1500561 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Pauling, A., Luterbacher, J., Casty, C. & Wanner, H. Five hundred years of gridded high-resolution precipitation reconstructions over Europe and the connection to large-scale circulation. Clim. Dynam. 26, 387–405 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Jones, G. V. & Davis, R. E. Climate influences on grapevine phenology, grape composition, and wine production and quality for Bordeaux, France. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 51, 249–261 (2000).

    Google Scholar 

  9. Schultz, H. R. & Jones, G. V. Climate induced historic and future changes in viticulture. J. Wine Res. 21, 137–145 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Tomasi, D., Jones, G. V., Giust, M., Lovat, L. & Gaiotti, F. Grapevine phenology and climate change: relationships and trends in the Veneto region of Italy for 1964–2009. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 62, 329–339 (2011).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Camps, J. O. & Ramos, M. C. Grape harvest and yield responses to inter-annual changes in temperature and precipitation in an area of north-east Spain with a Mediterranean climate. Int. J. Biometeorol. 56, 853–864 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Webb, L. B. et al. Earlier wine-grape ripening driven by climatic warming and drying and management practices. Nature Clim. Change 2, 259–264 (2012).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Jones, G. V. in Phenology: An Integrative Environmental Science (ed. Schwartz, M. D.) 563–584 (Springer, 2013).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  14. Jones, G. V., White, M. A., Cooper, O. R. & Storchmann, K. Climate change and global wine quality. Climatic Change 73, 319–343 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Mori, K., Goto-Yamamoto, N., Kitayama, M. & Hashizume, K. Loss of anthocyanins in red-wine grape under high temperature. J. Exp. Bot. 58, 1935–1945 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Chaves, M. M. et al. Grapevine under deficit irrigation: hints from physiological and molecular data. Ann. Bot. 105, 661–676 (2010).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Baciocco, K. A., Davis, R. E. & Jones, G. V. Climate and Bordeaux wine quality: identifying the key factors that differentiate vintages based on consensus rankings. J. Wine Res. 25, 75–90 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Van Leeuwen, C. et al. Vine water status is a key factor in grape ripening and vintage quality for red Bordeaux wine. How can it be assessed for vineyard management purposes? J. Int. Sci. Vigne Vin 43, 121–134 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  19. Coombe, B. G. Influence of temperature on composition and quality of grapes Symp. Grapevine Canopy Vigor Manage., XXII IHC 206, 23–36 (International Society for Horticultural Science, 1986).

  20. Fila, G., Tomasi, D., Gaiotti, F. & Jones, G. V. The book of vinesprouts of Kőszeg (Hungary): a documentary source for reconstructing spring temperatures back to the eighteenth century. Int. J. Biometeorol. 60, 207–219 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Harris, I., Jones, P. D., Osborn, T. J. & Lister, D. H. Updated high-resolution grids of monthly climatic observations–the CRU TS3.10 dataset. Int. J. Climatol. 34, 623–642 (2014).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Broadbent, M. Vintage Wine: Fifty Years of Tasting Three Centuries of Wine (Harcourt, 2002).

    Google Scholar 

  23. Oppenheimer, C. Climatic, environmental and human consequences of the largest known historic eruption: Tambora volcano (Indonesia) 1815. Prog. Phys. Geogr. 27, 230–259 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Rebetez, M. et al. Heat and drought 2003 in Europe: a climate synthesis. Ann. Forest Sci. 63, 569–577 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Chuine, I. et al. Historical phenology: grape ripening as a past climate indicator. Nature 432, 289–290 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Seneviratne, S. I., Luthi, D., Litschi, M. & Schar, C. Land-atmosphere coupling and climate change in Europe. Nature 443, 205–209 (2006).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Parker, A. et al. Classification of varieties for their timing of flowering and veraison using a modelling approach: a case study for the grapevine species Vitis vinifera L. Agric. Forest Meteorol. 180, 249–264 (2013).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. van Leeuwen, C. & Darriet, P. The impact of climate change on viticulture and wine quality. J. Wine Econ. (2016).

  29. Jackson, D. I. & Lombard, P. B. Environmental and management practices affecting grape composition and wine quality-a review. Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 44, 409–430 (1993).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  30. van Leeuwen, C. et al. Why climate change will not dramatically decrease viticultural suitability in main wine-producing areas by 2050. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, E3051–E3052 (2013).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  31. de Cortazar-Atauri, I. G. et al. Climate reconstructions from grape harvest dates: methodology and uncertainties. Holocene 20, 599–608 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Palmer, W. C. Meteorological Drought Research Paper No. 45 58 (US Weather Bureau, 1965).

    Google Scholar 

  33. van der Schrier, G., Barichivich, J., Briffa, K. R. & Jones, P. D. A scPDSI-based global dataset of dry and wet spells for 1901–2009. J. Geophys. Res. 118, 4025–4048 (2013).

    Google Scholar 

  34. R Core Team R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, 2014);

Download references


The authors thank I. García de Cortázar-Atuari for help with the Daux data, H. Eyster, S. Gee and J. Samaha for extracting wine quality data and K. Nicholas for comments on an earlier draft. LDEO contribution no. 7976.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



B.I.C. and E.M.W. conceived of the paper and contributed equally to the writing. B.I.C. conducted the climate analyses and processing of the harvest data, with contributions from E.M.W. E.M.W. performed the wine quality analysis.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Benjamin I. Cook.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary Information (PDF 2463 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Cook, B., Wolkovich, E. Climate change decouples drought from early wine grape harvests in France. Nature Clim Change 6, 715–719 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Further reading


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing