Daily Newsletter

28 March 2024

Daily Newsletter

28 March 2024

Climate change study warns wine regions at “risk of disappearing”

The report suggests 90% of coastal and lowland wine regions in Spain, Italy and southern California could disappear by the end of the century.

Conor Reynolds March 27 2024

Climate change could cause 90% of coastal and lowland wine regions in Spain, Italy and southern California to disappear by the end of the century, a study claims.

A review of the impact of climate change on global viticulture published in Nature Reviews warns that climate change is impacting grape composition, yields and wine quality.

The study, titled Climate Change Impacts And Adaptations Of Wine Production, suggested marketing wine by region rather than variety to encourage sales of lesser-known, climate-resistant varieties.

“The emergence of new pests and diseases and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events, such as heatwaves, heavy rainfall and possibly hail, also challenge wine production in some regions,” the researchers said.

The paper warns vintners operating in already hot and dry regions could face rising temperatures and drought conditions that make the location economically unsuitable for wine.

Mid-latitude wine regions, meanwhile, could be exposed to increased hail and spring frost events, it said.

It points to events in Spain and Portugal where extreme weather events have already resulted in stunted vines, damaged canopies and severe yield losses.

Additionally, coastal and lowland regions of Spain, Italy, Greece and southern California are at “risk of disappearing” by the end of the century due to excessive drought and extreme heat events.

Wine quality is also under threat, the report suggests. If temperatures are too low wines tend to have a green and acidic profile, while excessive heat brings out high alcohol with lower levels of acidity. Grape phenolic compounds, such as tannins and anthocyanin drop in high temperatures, impacting wine structure and colour.

However, the research notes some of its projections are “overly pessimistic” as they do not take into account the possibility of growers adapting to conditions and the “exact extent” of climate change’s impact.

Using modern technology and practices, winemakers may change plant material, training systems and seasonal management practices so harvest better suit environments.

In hot and dry regions, heatwave damage can be mitigated through the use of canopies and decreased planting density to conserve water.

However, it warns that these “adaptations” may not be enough to keep wine production economically viable in all areas.

Looking to other solutions, the paper argues grapevine varietal diversity is a “promising adaptation lever” for climate change.

“The limited use of genetic diversity is almost certainly due in part to market forces that have homogenised diversity across most regions. Still, there are hundreds to thousands of different varieties and clones waiting to be explored, many of which will have valuable phenotypes (plant properties) for adaptation to climate change,” it said.

Some regions will benefit from the impact of climate change as they grow warmer and more suitable for viticulture. Locations like Washington State, Oregon, Tasmania could develop further, while new regions get established such as in the south of the UK.

The paper suggests marketing wine by region rather than variety will assist consumer acceptance of lesser-known varieties which are better adapted to the changing climate.

“One thing is certain: climate change will drive major changes in global wine production in the near future. Having the flexibility to adapt to these changes will be essential,” it said.

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