Global Warming and Wine Production: Serious Implications?

As we wrote in the  grape varietal information section, weather, soil, and topography all play a major role in wine production.  Combined they are called “terroir” and when balanced well can result in great wines.  Around the globe there is a narrow band of terroir that is most suitable for growing grapes.   Climate data from the last 100 years has revealed a gradual rise in global temperatures which have greatly impacted wine growing regions worldwide.

Well before scientists began to sound the alarm, grape growers were noticing a change in weather patterns above-and-beyond their region’s unpredictable weather close to 30 years ago.  What they were witnessing was the cumulative effect of the rise in greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.  For grape growers this translates into grapes ripening earlier than usual and more frequent summer droughts which are impacting the vine’s growth process.

Climate models predict these effects are expected to be more pronounced in the northern hemisphere.  The result will be a change to the margins and suitability for growing certain varietals.  In California, suitable land for growing premium wine grapes could be cut in half by 2040.  In France, Bordeaux and other regions could be unsuitable for wine-growing by 2050.  

While one solution is being implemented, a switch to more heat-resistant grape type, not everyone is worried about the rising temperatures.  In England, a land not known for its ability to provide the right terroir for grape growing, there has been a steady increase in the number of commercial vineyards.  The island, known for its rainy climate, cooler weather and limited days of warmth and sunlight has witnessed an average rise of 3 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 50 years.  So by 2050, England and China could be atop the wine industry for production.

So, while rising temperatures are a definite long-range concern for the wine industry, thus far the gradual rise has been well received.  The warmer temperatures are resulting in more consistent harvests.  This means whole grape clusters from vine to vine are more similar with regards to flavor and sugar content.  As a result, the wine industry has experienced a steady rise in quality ratings coinciding with the rising temperatures.

In conclusion, rising temperatures around the globe have been and will continue to impact the wine industry.  Most notably, once fertile areas may become barren lands and other regions, not previously hospitable to grape production, will become so.  While we still have some time, 30-40 years until disaster strikes large swathes of the industry, will the wine industry become a larger advocate for environmental legislation?  For their own sake they might need to.

About americanwinegrape

American Wine Grape Distributors Inc. AKA A. Silvestro Wine Grape, has been in business for over 5 decades. We are wine enthusiasts just like you and want to share in that enjoyment. This is why we are developing a new and exciting platform for growers, restaurants, sommeliers and home winemakers. Our goal is to bring the wine community together and is the driving force behind our new blog.