Wine Club Newsletter - December 2020
Climate Change is Threatening World’s Wine Supply
By Harry Petit, The Sun
Here is an interesting piece of journalism to consider. I am not trying to make a political statement, just want you to be aware that many of the winegrowers and producers tell me they believe in and are responding to what they believe is a warming of our planet: (GP)
You may be forced to pay more for your favorite wines if climate change continues.
That’s the shock warning issued by scientists this week, who said rising global temperatures could wipe out 85 percent of the world’s wine-growing regions.
This mass loss of vineyards would likely trigger a global wine shortage, driving up prices for reds and whites the world over.
The international team of scientists said their work highlighted “the critical role that human decisions play in building agricultural systems resilient to climate change.”
In a research paper published Monday, researchers described how they investigated the climate suitability of 11 varieties of wine grapes.
Those grapes account for a third of the area planted globally and are prominent in many important wine countries such as France, Australia, New Zealand and Chile.
Computer models showed that global warming of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit — a rise the world is on track to exceed — would incinerate 56 percent of land used to grow wine worldwide.
Heating of 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, a realistic prospect this century, would threaten up to 85 percent of wine-growing regions.
Extra heat might damage delicate plants, or speed up ripening and make the grapes too high in sugar, researchers said.
However, planting different grape varieties or quantities could significantly cut losses, said the new study.
Switching to varieties that are more tolerant to heat could cut the loss of growing areas to 24 percent from 56 percent under an average global temperature rise of 2C from preindustrial times and to 58 percent from 85 percent with a 4C increase, they found.
In France’s Burgundy region, currently cultivated varieties like pinot noir could be replaced with the heat-loving Mourvedre and Grenache, they said.
Cooler wine-growing regions such as Germany, New Zealand and the US Pacific Northwest could also become suitable for grapes that thrive in warmer climates.
But top producers Italy, Spain and Australia — which are already hot — face the largest losses, they added.
Some big winegrowers, particularly in Australia and California, also are facing losses of vineyards to worsening wildfires, as climate change brings hotter and drier conditions.
John Handmer, a Canberra-based science advisor for the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, said recent bushfires in Australia meant some vineyards were not just damaged but “gone” — and could take years to re-establish.
That would impact not only agricultural earnings — already hard-hit by drought in Australia — but also tourism in wine-growing areas, he added.
Ignacio Morales-Castilla, lead author of the new study, said the research showed there was still an opportunity to adapt viticulture and agriculture to climate pressures.
“But we need to be aware that the more warming there is, the less chances we have to adapt,” said Morales-Castilla, from Spain’s University of Alcala.
Diversifying into different grape varieties can help, he said — but once warming tops 2C, it becomes a less effective strategy the hotter the climate gets.
The world has already warmed by just over 1C.
In addition, vineyards must overcome regulatory, financial and cultural hurdles to switch varieties, warned the study.
“There is attachment of some growers to given varieties that were grown (there) for centuries… and shifting or abandoning that variety is not going to be easy,” said Morales-Castilla.
He said he hoped many more local varieties suitable for growing in hotter temperatures could be identified, as the study only looked at 11 varieties from a global total of about 1,100.