I recently read an article about climate change and its devastating effect on the wine industry, from High Country News. Although the article was somewhat troubling to read, it included some optimistic views that I appreciated.
Vineyards are now dealing with drought, intense temperature swings, and fruit that is ripening much too early. While the article mostly just focused on western states such as Colorado, it’s apparent that countries all over the world are facing the same issues because of climate change.
Wine production in its current state
Typically cooler grape cultivation regions are becoming warmer and places like California may become too hot to produce the high-quality grapes the region is known for. This same trend is evident in France, with speculation that newer producing countries like Canada and China will be able to benefit from climate change.
But cooler climates also carry a risk. Winter temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit can freeze vine trunks and this can force the plant to regrow from the roots. This is a nightmare for vintners because this process can take years.
Also notable is that spring in the States has been advancing and vintners are all too aware of the early warm spells. These spells can pull grape vines out of winter sleep before the frost has disappeared for good, which can kill the buds.
But can vineyards adapt?
While it may look bleak, the article was helpful in providing some tips and insights to how vintners can deal with the changes. To keep producing top-notch grapes, some winemakers may need to relocate operations. Vineyards in California and Washington, for example, are already expanding further north. Other ways to protect vines is to hang shade cloth or to plant north-facing rows on a sun-shaded slope.
Some winemakers are considering cultivating different grapes and adapting to the new temperatures. The issue with this, however, is that winemakers may have to switch grape varieties as the climate continues to change.
What else can be done?
I recently wrote a piece for Tetrapak about how to make the wine industry more sustainable and how to combat climate change. I think we need to focus on finding alternative ways to package, distribute, and sell wine to stay in check with the planet.
If we want to keep enjoying wine, we need to shift away from what’s important in the wine world, to what’s important to the planet.
Giles Cadman is Chairman of The Cadman Capital Group, a group of cohesive, complementary companies, operating in the international trade, retail, leisure, and investment markets. Learn more about Giles.