While wine makers in Britain face happily towards global warming, more traditional producers are not so sure, with the winter treat of forced rhubarb being a case in point.
Invented by a Victorian gardener who accidentally left a flowerpot upside-down on the plant, the stalks were soon growing at great speed in an attempt to reach the sun.
Further inspection showed that the pink stalks were more tender and succulent than its later-growing sisters.
Soon an entire industry grew up around Wakefield in Yorkshire. Perfect soil, combined with nearby coal for heating and good transport, meant that some 200 growers sent tons of rhubarb on the ‘rhubarb express’ to cities across Britain.
But there are now only 12 growers left – exotic fruit imports, global warming and the expense of the traditional harvesting methods have hit them hard.
Rhubarb needs cold temperatures to break its dormant period and warm winters make this difficult. In 2007, the yield was low and high grade produce was in short supply.
Some growers believe the addition of a naturally-occurring plant hormone called gibberellic acid could save the day, by reducing the need for colder periods. And the EU is looking like an unlikely hero.
Yorkshire rhubarb growers have applied for protected status, like champagne, and look likely to succeed. It will probably be a while before British wine has a similar exclusive labelling.