Across the world, the rising temperature owing to climate change has been affecting everything we grow and produce. Not only is it affecting the food quality but it is also reducing our access to some of our favourite foods. Ecologists and farmers have been trying to figure out the challenges which await us in future and they have been ensuring they save the foods we love. The wineries and winemakers globally foresee a dramatic shift in the wine industry and climate change is expected to shake the wine-growing geographies — favouring some and affecting others negatively.
For scientists, wine grapes are among the best climate specimen as they are extremely sensitive to the changing climate. Extreme weather conditions such as drought, frost and heat waves which are a result of climate change may trigger responses from wine grapes which can severely affect the quality and flavour of the wine. We have seen a temperature rise of 1-degree Celsius since the last century and this is leading to wine grapes mature earlier than ever. While this is good news for countries like the United Kingdom and Sweden where the rising temperature is promoting the burgeoning wineries, however for nations such as France, Germany, South Africa and Australia, the climate change does not bode well for the industry.
France is one of the world leaders in wine production. Climate change has been disrupting its centuries-old ways of wine production. As the temperature soars, it increases the sugar content which in turn elevates the alcohol levels in the wine. This requires changes in the centuries-old vinification processes. What’s more, there has been spotting of a new variety of plants popping up between the vines and that requires extra care while harvesting the plants mechanically as it may mix with the grapes and change the flavour of the wine. The vintners have let go of the ‘stripping’ process too which removed the leaves from the vines but now — to prevent the grapes from burning in the scorching heat — these leaves remain on the vines and give shade to the grapes.
The extreme episodes of rain, cold and heat have led the harvesting season to come earlier. Scientists have been comparing the heat resistant grape varieties of eastern and southern European countries like Spain, Georgia and Portugal to the milder varieties of French Bordeaux grapes such as merlot and cabernet sauvignon and it seems climate change me deprive us of the authentic Bordeaux wine which is originally a blend of six authorized grape varieties. Throughout the world, Vineyards are getting drier and water stress has become more pronounced in some countries. However, because of the strict French regulations on irrigation in vineyards, the situation could be worse for the wine industry in France. While the picture is not that bad for British — In the UK, more wine is being produced than ever before. With the prediction of warmer and drier summers ahead, more vineyards are being established. There is no surprise why wine production is emerging as one of the fastest-growing agricultural sectors in the UK. In recent years, the country has seen a surge in the investments in the wine industry, demand for the skills required to run wineries and state of the art technology is being brought in to produce world-class wine.
The changes in the landscape of wine industry look inevitable. While we may not know now for certain how it will have an impact on the production of wine but we do foresee a major shift in the spots of winners and losers in the wine industry.