New York Times wine and food critic, Eric Asimov recently did a 4 part series on how wine is being affected by climate change noting that “few agricultural products are as sensitive as wine grapes to climate.”
Climate is one of the key controlling factors in grape and wine production that affects the suitability of certain grape varieties to a particular region as well as the type and quality of the wine produced. Wine composition is largely dependent on the terrior of a region aka the climate-soil-variety equilibrium.
Wine has been cherished through the centuries for its capability of expressing each year’s distinctions and nuances of the weather conditions, as well as the unique character of the site and soil in which the grapes are grown. It’s the terrior of the region that speaks through the wine giving it it’s unique character and taste. Unfortunately, climate change is bringing many unwanted pests and destructive challenges to wine growing.
Climate data of the last 100 years has shown that global temperatures are gradually beginning to rise with a linear warming trend of 0.74 ⁰C per hundred years and is projected to continue in the future. This is anticipated to affect viticulture all over the world both positively and negatively across the globe. (1)
Adding to rising temperatures is the increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration, shifts in the amount of, distribution, and seasonality of rainfall as well as increases in surface level of ultraviolet UV-B radiation due to ozone layer depletion does and will affect yields, organic acids, taste, and create a multitude of issues for vineyards. (2)
(Are you depressed yet? I am!)
What does all this mean?
In many regions, this has meant…hotter summers, warmer winters, droughts, summer rains, freak hailstorms, spring frosts, altered precipitation patterns, flooding, and fires, are just a few of the unexpected, sometimes violent events that stem from climate change. Wine regions are having to learn how to deal regularly with these once-rare devastations.
Here in California, we had the Kincaide fire, the Getty fire, the Easy-Fire and the Maria Fire ALL in one week. David and I, unfortunately, had front row seats to the Maria Fire. Thank goodness we came through untouched. But it was way too close for comfort. See the pics below.
There is some good news.
Wine regions are expanding ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Winemakers are growing grapes in places once considered too cold for fine wines. Places, like England, that were historically unsuited for producing fine wine have been given the opportunity to join the global wine world, transforming local economies in the process. And It’s not only England. Vineyards have been planted in Belgium, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, regions once considered too cold for grapes to grow. In the Southern Hemisphere, vineyards are showing up deep into Patagonia in Argentina and Chile. And in California, in small towns like Camarillo. J
All around the wine-producing world, particularly in places like California, growers are operating according to this new logic borne of climate change.
It is keeping us on our toes, forcing us to be spontaneous, creative, adaptable and learning new ways to grow grapes and make wine. As if winemaking isn’t already complicated enough, as the world’s climates are transformed, so are we.
References & Sources:
- 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Effects_of_climate_change_on_wine_production
- 2: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/10/14/dining/drinks/climate-change-wine.html