Winter temperatures are important to the next summer's grape production, which runs from April to September. Higher temperatures in the ocean result in warmer winter weather and a better grape harvest.
Over the centuries, Burgundy showed little evidence of long-term increases or decreases in winter temperatures, until 1998, Tourre said in a recent presentation to the American Geophysical Union, according to Inside Science News Service.
But since then "winters have become milder," he added.
Other research has suggested that climate change could shrivel the harvests of vintners.
This research could give French grape farmers another forecasting tool.
"You can have people in Burgundy looking at the sea surface temperature to add another variable to determine the harvest," Tourre said.
Tourre put his observations to the test this spring. He correctly predicted that the harvest would be early. It began Aug. 20, though it usually starts in September.
Tourre suggests investing in 2011 pinot noir. Weather conditions made this an excellent year for Burgundy. In another decade or so, a 2011 pinot noir may be a delicious reward for listening to a scientist.
Pinot noir in Burgundy, France. (Credit: PRA, Wikimedia Commons).
Bunch of pinot noir grapes in Volnay, Burgundy, in early August, when the grapes have begun to get their color. (Credit: Olivier Vanpé, Wikimedia Commons).