Guest Post: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions

How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions

The Earth’s climate is shifting and winegrowers are paying close attention. Generally, the globe as a whole is warming. The warming of polar Arctic and Antarctic regions has caused more dramatic seasonal polar ice melts and results in the Earth absorbing more heat, since the shrinking white ice reflects less sunlight and heat back into space.

In conjunction with atmospheric warming, more dramatic weather effects are counter-balancing temperature changes. Hurricanes and tornados are simple and terrifying examples of natural heat redistribution. Changes in rainfall are another result that agriculturalists and winegrowers need to remain aware of. Whether these global climate changes are to last a dozen year or hundreds of years is of less importance to the world’s wine growers than the more productive question of how to deal with it.

It’s important that the wine industry confront climate change head-on because grapes, soil and the wine flavors they help create are directly affected by climate. Some key changes worldwide may be:

  • Sugar builds-up faster in warmer temperatures, meaning that vineyards may need to harvest sooner.
  • Soil quality, a crucial part of a wine’s terroir, can be dramatically weakened in higher temperatures because the nutrients from organic material decompose faster.
  • Soil erosion occurs faster under heavier, windier rainfall and weather events.

The suitability of a region for growing wine is not solely dependent on temperature and precipitation. Soil quality, transportation options, access to water, and political considerations will determine how vineyards will adapt. These factors should be considered when reading scientific studies, which vary in using these factors when determining the long-term suitability of regions.

Regions Under Fire

Think of Chianti, Barolo, and Rioja: these wines come from relatively small, specific regions and are the most vulnerable. Chianti is a region in central Tuscany on the north-western coast of Italy that by 2050 will likely be too hot to sustain Sangiovese grapes. In Spain, Rioja wines are threatened by weakened tempranillo vineyards, since this grape thrives in cooler climates.

Photo Credits: Dead grape vine by Zack Weinberg. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Celebrated wine regions like Napa, Burgundy, and Bordeaux will undergo similar changes. Bordeaux, known as the “King of Wines” from the eponymous French wine region, is dependent on the maritime influence on several key grapes used in Bordeaux wine, namely Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc for reds and Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle for whites. However, increased weather events on the eastern coast of France, like droughts and storms, combined with higher summer temperatures are threatening the entire region.

The Bordeaux region knows the ravages of disease all too well. In the late 1800s, nearly two decades of Bordeaux wine were lost because of Phylloxera infestations, prompting growers to create new vineyards in other parts of the French empire. Today, growers are increasingly focused on pest control. Unsuitable weather makes vines more susceptible to disease. Warmer weather allows pests and disease to spread more rapidly. With global warming, you may see some of the similar havoc as during the Phylloxera infestation that forever reshaped the European wine industry.

Options for Adaptation

Wine producers are taking several different tacks to deal with the challenges that come with climate change. Some vintners, like those in the Chianti Growers Association, suggest that different irrigation practices will maintain the soil’s suitability for years to come. Winegrowers associations in South Africa, where water is far more scarce, are pushing the government to focus on protection from foreign plant species, like eucalyptus, that use more water than native species.

California’s Napa wine region, which accounts for 90% of America’s wine production, is under particular threat from climate change, as California is expected to become more arid in the next 40 years. Some changes have already been seen, with increased maritime fog and higher nighttime temperatures. The California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance has educated more than 10,000 wine grape growers with workshops that introduce new farming methods like dry farming, a technique used mostly in the Great Plains regions of the US to farm without irrigation.

Wine producers have a final, dramatic option, as well: move. As temperatures rise in France, Italy and the Napa Valley, it’s likely that some growers will simply move their grapes and wine-making operations further north, where temperatures that were typically too low to grow grapes will rise as well.

The expense of growing in climatically challenged regions will be passed onto consumers but the overall sentiment among winemakers is that the global wine industry will adapt in a variety of ways to ensure that the multi-billion-dollar market remains healthy and, perhaps, more sustainable.

About the Author

Matthew Sonnenshein is the writer for AYZA Wine & Chocolate Bar, making sure their blog is busy with insight wine & chocolate information. With two Manhattan locations, AYZA is the NYC wine bar that takes the pairing of fine wine and gourmet chocolate to a new level, while also boasting a stellar chocolate martini.

Editor’s Note

Matthew Sonnenshein wrote another exclusive guest post for Vino in Love about Asian Food & Wine which will be published in the upcoming weeks. I hope you found this post as much interesting as I do. Looking forward to your comments about this important subject. Below you find a peak of Matthew’s second guest post for Vino in Love.

Wine doesn’t have a long history with Asian food, so wine lovers have only recently discovered how to pair the two. With the nearly-pure-alcohol baijiu, akin to our white lightning, in China and the variety of sake in Japan, Asia as a whole has not traditionally made wine a staple of its dining culture as wine growing is a recent phenomena. That is changing fast. With increasing demand coming from Western influence, and the acres of land in Asia becoming more suitable for grape growing because of climate change, wine is quickly becoming an exciting part of Asian meals. Asian cuisine generally has many flavors and ingredients, often served across several dishes across a single meal. To ensure that the flavors are enjoyed, it’s best to approach Asian food wine pairings with a sense of balance. Though there are some dishes, like stir-fry, that benefit from heavier wines, it’s best to stick with white wines for Asian cuisine..


25 comments on “Guest Post: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions”

  1. Pingback: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions | I...

  2. foodwine88 Reply

    I think that the author forgot to mention the “positive” asspects of global warming for the wine world. Countries like Austria, Germany and the even Switzerland will have much better growing conditions for many vines. The wines won’t be as acid as they are now and the red wines will be more full-bodied similar to the French wines. Right now German red wine is pretty much undrinkable but give it 30-40 years and the situation will have improved.
    Not everything is bad about global warming when it comes to wine.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      In my opinion Global Warming is bad in general. Maybe there are a few “positive” side effects for Northern wine countries like the German-speaking countries but in general Global Warming is changing most wine regions for the bad.

  3. Pingback: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions | M...

  4. Sean P. Reply

    It’s scary that global warming is affecting so many things..
    Thanks for this informative post, Julian.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that it’s scary. Hopefully the wineries will have success at fighting the consequences of the climate change but in order to stop Global Warming China and the USA would need to rethink their actions.

      • Sean P. Reply

        You’re right that politicians need to change their approach on climate change. At the end of the day it’ll not only affect us but also future generations!

  5. Suzanne Reply

    Eye opening and pretty darn scary. Interesting reads, thank you Matthew for posting this and I have to visit your wine and chocolate bar really soon.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Glad to see that you like the guest post 🙂
      Have fun at the wine bar. I’d love to visit it, too and will the next time I’m in NY. Judging from the website it looks like a great place to enjoy a glass of wine.

  6. Pingback: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions | goodthingsfromitaly

  7. winetalks winetalks Reply

    That’s what I call a good post! Enjoyed reading this a lot. The subject is quite important and every wine enthusiast should be concerned about it. Imagine what a sad world it would be without all the Riojas and Chiantis..

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you for commenting. Very much agree with you but we shouldn’t forget that global warming also affects a lot of other aspects of our daily lives.

  8. Marco van Puff Reply

    Julian, thanks for sharing this post with us! A real eye opener. Scary thought that all the good wines might be gone in 50 years.
    Looking forward to Matthews other guest post contribution. He set the expectation bar quite high with this post 😉

  9. Tracy Lee Karner Reply

    I’ve come to believe that it’s important for people to be connected to the growing of their food (and wine is, as far as I’m concerned, food). It keeps us aware of what is real, and what is really happening. Everyone involved in viticulture and agriculture is aware of what’s going on with the climate. And awareness, consciousness is a good thing. Unconsciousness is not.

    Great post.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      I very much agree with what you said and wine is definitely food 🙂
      Unfortunately a lot of people are unaware of how the climate is going to affect our daily lives. Many people just don’t seem to care for the distant future. At least that’s my impression.. One of the reasons why I decided to publish this guest post was to get people’s attention on this important matter.

  10. Pingback: How Global Warming will Change Wine Regions | C...

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