As the Climate Heats Up, Can Germany Keep Its Cool?

Written by: Anna Lee C. Iijima

Bright-fruited and linear, ethereal and taut: The archetypes of Germany’s classic, cool-climate wines are distinct from any other style in the world. From the northernmost corners of the Mosel and the Ahr to the southern stretches of Baden, Germany’s wine regions represent diverse climate and terroir.

Yet with a large proportion of winegrowing straddling the 50th parallel, much of Germany’s wine regions developed at the precipice of marginality for grape production. Historically, the pursuit of ripeness has been the central challenge of German winegrowers. So much that Germany developed a wine-quality-classification system, or prädikat, ranking wines by the degree of sugar development in grapes. The country has undergone a dramatic change in climate over the last 40-plus years, says Dr. Hans Reiner Schultz, president of Geisenheim University and a leading scientist studying the effects of climate change on winegrowing.

The last two decades in Germany, especially, have been marked by record-breaking summer temperatures and a steady increase in mean temperatures nationwide. The question lingers: When a region’s wine identity is so intrinsically tied to cool climate, what happens when it changes?

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