Is global warming affecting wine production?

Global wamingClimate change is an increasingly prevalent problem. Erratic weather patterns and temperature increases mean that our crops are beginning to suffer, and this will unsurprisingly affect wine production too.

Some winemakers who have accepted that global warming is a very real, and very immediate, problem, have begun to take positive steps to try and minimise the impact. But there are some who are sticking their heads in the sand, and as a result might soon find themselves in a very precarious position.

As recently as five years ago, Southern Rhone started to see problems caused by climate change. Louis Barroul, winemaker at the biodynamic Chateau Saint Cosme, believes that the future of Syrah in the Southern Rhone is limited. While the variety can tolerate a hot climate, it really struggles with drought stress, which is becoming increasingly common in the region. As a result, he predicts that the future for Southern Rhone wines will be with the lesser-known Mourvedre variety.

This phenomenon is not unique to France either and at Alois Lageder in the Alto Adige region of Northern Italy, they have noticed that grapes are consistently ripening 10 days earlier than they were 20 years ago. Surely this is further evidence that climate change is real.

In response, Lee Hannah, a senior scientist at Conservation International, started mapping out how climate change might affect the world’s wine growing regions, and the results are shocking. The prediction is that by 2050, production in major wine regions will dramatically diminish, with an 85% reduction in many parts of Europe, such as Tuscany, Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley.

It’s not all bad news, however, and while traditional regions may struggle to maintain production, new opportunities are arising. English winemakers are seeing the change in climate as a bonus – a helping hand in a climate that has been crippling in the past.

Other new areas are also starting to show potential and it’s worth keeping an eye out for wines from previously considered ‘extreme climates’, such as Tasmania, Yellowstone Park in the USA and China.

5th January 2016

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