French vintners haven’t lived through such a succession of hot weather and dry harvests since at least the time of the Black Death in the 14th century.

Weather extremes that could now be considered normal for anybody under the age of 30 are unprecedented in historical records going back to when Europe was recovering from the pandemic that eviscerated the population. That’s the conclusion of researchers who examined temperature, grape harvest and wage data dating back to 1354, according to a study in the European Geosciences Union journal Climate of the Past.

“Outstanding hot and dry years in the past were outliers, while they have become the norm since the transition to rapid warming in 1988,” said the authors led by Thomas Labbe. Hotter temperatures over the last three decades have resulted in Burgundy grapes being harvested on average 13 days earlier than they were over the last 664 years, they said.

The new study underscores how manmade climate change is forcing populations to adapt to new cycles. Hotter and drier weather impacts not only Burgundy’s farmers tending their vineyards, but also itinerant harvesters, merchants and consumers.

The researchers reexamined the legendary hot summer of 1540 that dried up the Rhine River by combing through some 300 documentary weather reports. Workers that year harvested grapes that looked like withered raisins and “yielded a sweet sherry-like wine which made people rapidly drunk,” they wrote. Wine critic Hugh Johnson has said tasting that vintage was one of the most memorable moments of his career.

However, soaring temperatures don’t guarantee quality harvests, the researchers said, noting that the duration of ripening and winemaker styles are equally important inputs.

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.