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English winegrowers set to prosper from warmer climate

By Max Foster, CNN
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Climate change good for wine?
  • Climate change could change the traditional map of wine growing regions
  • English winegrowers are benefiting from warmer temperatures
  • Climate plays a crucial role in balancing sugar and acidity levels in wine

London, England (CNN) -- As world leaders gather in Copenhagen to debate the catastrophic effects of climate change there are some places in the world, such as the English vineyards, which stand to benefit from warmer temperatures.

Over the years, some winemakers say, a rise in temperature has redrawn the international wine map.

The warmer climate has aided English winegrowers as they experiment with planting grape varieties found in some of France's best wine regions.

And many have met with some success. Chris White, general manager at Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey told CNN: "Twenty years ago with what we were growing here -- pinot noir -- people were a little bit sniffy, thinking that we wont be able to grow a full bodied red. We are now and we are producing sparkling wines which are competing and beating in any blind competitions."

White's 265-acre wine estate in Surrey in the southeast of England has been producing both white and red wines for moe than 20 years, and he says that the quality keeps getting better and better with the warmer temperatures.

"Because of the improving weather conditions we are getting better consistency in terms of quality and yield, year on year," White said.

White also says that producing full-bodied reds are easier now whereas previously it had been a bit of a struggle.

Climate plays a crucial role in balancing the sugar and acidity levels found in grapes necessary for the distinctive flavors of all wines.

Whatever the color of wine produced, wine drinkers and growers have every reason to say "cheers."

A record 3 million bottles of wine was produced last year, and the English Wine Producers Association predicts that the number will nearly double by 2015.

But not all winemakers credit climate change with the quality improvements.

Owen Clive from the Chapel Down Winery in Kent told CNN: "Both culture and wine making technique have improved immensely in the last 10 to 15 years. And so now we are making much better wines from better grapes. But how much climate change has influenced that is difficult to say. It's anecdotal really."

Climate experts have said that global warming will shift growing patterns from crops. So who knows what's ahead for England and other parts of the globe. But some see a fruity forecast for the English wine industry.

Richard Selley, author of "The Winelands of Britain" sees a sparkling future.

"For English winemakers the immediate future is very bright. It's very good for the next 30 or 40 years," Selley said.

Perhaps one day the finest wines may well be bottled in the south of England.