Last of the summer wine? Climate change could wipe out more than HALF of wine-growing regions unless vineyards change varieties — like switching pinot noir for mourvèdre
- Experts found 2°C warming may end 56 per cent of current wine growing areas
- However, some areas could remain viable by cultivating warmer grape varieties
- Meanwhile, cooler grapes may end grown at higher latitudes than at present
- Hot regions like Italy and Spain, however, will see their vineyards suffer the most
Climate change could wipe out more than half of the world’s present wine-growing regions and force vineyards to change varieties in order to keep operating.
Researchers led from Harvard University in the US found that just 2°C of warming would cut the amount of suitable wine-growing regions by as much as 56 per cent.
However, trading their current grape varieties up for more heat-tolerant varieties could help keep some vineyards in business.
For example, ‘warmer’ varieties like mourvèdre could be grown where cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir is currently cultivated.
These cooler-temperature grapes could then by grown in new wine-producing regions north of their present locations.
However, climate change will hit already hot regions like Italy and Spain the hardest, which will have no more-heat-resistant varieties to trade up to.
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Climate change could wipe out more than half of the world’s present wine-growing regions and force vineyards to change varieties in order to keep operating
‘Substituting grenache or cabernet sauvignon for pinot noir, planting trebbiano where riesling is grown — these aren’t painless shifts to make,’ said food and conservation scientist Elizabeth Wolkovich of the University of British Columbia.
‘But they can ease winegrowers’ transition to a new and warmer world.’
Professor Wolkovich and colleagues found that if average global temperatures rise by 2°C, the regions of the world that are presently suitable for growing good wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56 per cent.
With 4°C warming, however, the loss of global wine-growing regions could increase to 85 per cent.
‘These estimates, however, ignore important changes that growers can make,’ Professor Wolkovich added.
‘We found that by switching to different varieties, vintners can lessen the damage — to just 24 per cent of areas lost.’
In their study, the researchers focused on 11 varieties of grape: cabernet sauvignon, chasselas, chardonnay, grenache, merlot, (mourvèdre also known as monastrell), pinot noir, riesling, sauvignon blanc, syrah and ugni blanc.
Based on past studies and vintner archives, the team built a model to determine when each variety would bud, flower, and ripen in wine-growing regions around the world under three different scenarios that considered 0°C, 2°C, and 4°C of warming.
From this, they determined where each variety would be likely to produce viable harvests — or not — in each possible future.
The team found that a reduction in wine-producing regions was unavoidable in both of the warming scenarios, thanks to shifting temperatures and seasonal changes that would affect conditions while the grapes were ripening.
However, they also discovered that by switching around the locations in which different varieties are grown, it would be possible to ‘reduce losses by a significant amount.’
In fact, such adaptations could halve the potential losses of wine growing regions under the 2°C warming scenario and cut such by around a third — from 85 to 58 per cent — in the 4°C scenario.
Other measures — like increased irrigation and the use of shade cloths — could also help to protect grapevines from higher temperatures, but only under smaller warming scenarios.
Researchers led from Harvard University in the US found that just 2°C of warming would cut the amount of suitable wine-growing regions by as much as 56 per cent
However, trading their current grape varieties up for more heat-tolerant varieties could help keep some vineyards in business
In France’s Burgundy region, for example, the researchers found that heat-loving mourvèdre and grenache varieties could replace traditional grapes like pinot noir.
Meanwhile, mourvèdre could also be produced in the vineyards of Bordeaux that once cultivated cabernet sauvignon and merlot.
The largest losses would be observed in those wine-growing regions that are already hot today — such as those in Australia Italy, and Spain — as vineyards there are already limited to the species of grape that grow in the warmest temperatures.
In contrast, cooler wine-growing regions such as those found in Germany, New Zealand and US Pacific Northwest could remain relatively unscathed in the 2°C warming scenario.
These regions, the team suggest, would become suitable for growing warmer-temperature varieties like merlot and grenache — while cooler-temperature varieties like pinot noir could be grown in more northern areas.
In France’s Burgundy region, for example, the researchers found that heat-loving mourvèdre and grenache varieties could replace traditional grapes like pinot noir
The researchers acknowledged, however, that there will be both cultural and legal hurdles to surmount if grape varieties are to be shuffled around
‘The effectiveness of any strategy depends on both the grape growers and people in general,’ said Professor Wolkovich. ‘Consumers who are willing to try new varieties can play a big part in helping save the regions people love’
The researchers acknowledged, however, that there will be both cultural and legal hurdles to surmount if grape varieties are to be shuffled around.
‘The effectiveness of any strategy depends on both the grape growers and people in general,’ said Professor Wolkovich.
‘Consumers who are willing to try new varieties can play a big part in helping save the regions people love.’
‘Legislation can encourage growers to test out new varieties. And ultimately, people can make the largest impact through work to reduce emissions globally.’
The full findings of the study were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
‘Legislation can encourage growers to test out new varieties. And ultimately, people can make the largest impact through work to reduce emissions globally,’ Professor Wolkovich
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO TASTE WINE PROPERLY?
When it comes to drinking wine, there a few things that can make all the difference.
Australian wine-connoisseur Caitlyn Rees offers how to taste wines like an expert
Step 1: See
Before you even down that first sip, you first need to take a look at the wine in your glass.
‘See refers to the appearance of the wine. This is where you can check the clarity, intensity and colour.
‘If the wine is hazy it could be faulty but more likely unfiltered.’
Step 2: Swirl
You’ve probably seen wine drinkers swirl the wine in their glass before taking a sip.
The reason is to allowed the wine to ‘open up’ and reveal the maximum amount of aroma, flavour and intensity.
‘Swirling releases the aroma particles that make the next step, smell, more helpful.’
Step 3: Smell
Smelling wine serves two purposes. It helps you detect scents and flavours as well as providing a way to check for faults.
Step 4: Sip and savour
Once you’ve taken in the full aroma of the wine, now it’s time to sip.
Step 5: Spit or swallow
Unless the wine you are tasting has gone bad, the final step in the process of wine tasting is to swallow.
The trick though isn’t to gulp it down.
It’s more to let it drift down over the back of your tongue to allow your taste buds to pick up the intensity of the flavour.
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