Terry Wogan column
From his holiday home in the Gers, our columnist finds local winegrowers taking a relaxed attitude to climate change warnings
As we reluctantly discard our thermo genes and tug the string vests over our heads, on the doubtful promise of warmer days ahead, the eternal optimists who advocate climate change, née global warming, have the brass neck to tell us boldly that with the ever-increasing warmth that we’ll be enjoying in the years to come, Britain will be challenging Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône as a producer of great red wines. Meanwhile, if all goes to plan, and the burning sun continues to beat relentlessly down, the once-productive vines of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the rest of France will shrivel and perish in the heat.
I hate to put a dampener on this fine talk, but from my vantage point in one of the lesser wine regions of France, there seems little evidence of blind panic among the growers, as their carefully tended vines continue to march triumphantly in dead-straight lines over field and hill. They’re cautious men and women, but they think that this year’s vintage might be okay, if things warm up a bit. They continue the traditions of their forefathers; tilling the land, planting the crops, always at the behest of the seasons and the weather. They live longer around here than anywhere else in Europe, and it’s not due to their diet, which admittedly has plenty of vegetables, but also liberal amounts of spirits, wine and duck-fat; there are no traffic jams, everybody has time for a chat and takes an hour and a half for lunch. Their only stresses are the changing seasons and the state of their crops.
This area has seen a century of war between French and English kings and a more recent occupation by Germans, and the locals seem unfazed by the shenanigans at the Élysée Palace. They’re a relaxed, tolerant people with a lot of history behind them and long lives to live.
And there certainly would be little point in warning them that in some unforeseeable future their hard work, and that of the generations before them, would be burnt to a crisp and nothing left of their rich fields of corn, sunflowers and vines but arid desert.
A good 40 years ago, a sage of the great warming warned that by now, the streets of London would be deserted, swept by fierce, hot winds. Some ten years ago, a government minister advised that Britain’s gardeners would be better off forgetting about planting their roses and other traditional flowers, in favour of succulents such as cacti, which would be better able to cope with the increasingly hot weather that lay ahead. We’re still waiting, but not holding our breath. I don’t think my friend, Jacky, who owns the domaine next door to me in the Gers, puts much store by long-range forecasts. More likely, he draws his own conclusions from our view of the distant Pyrénées and the clouds rolling in from the Atlantic.
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