Changing Temperatures

Climate change is causing worry to many industries. Coastal cities fear that rising tides could flood their streets. Changing weather conditions could wreak havoc on transport and infrastructure systems. Systems and trade routes which have been in existence since the industrial revolution could disappear in a matter of decades if climate change continues unabated. One industry which could be severely affected by changing weather conditions is the wine industry.

Wine is produced by grapes in vineyards, and as an agricultural pursuit is subject to the temperament of the climate. Grape vines can be potentially be grown in a variety of climates. However, the vast majority of vineyards exist between the 35th and 50th parallels of the northern hemisphere, and the 30th and 45th parallels of the southern hemisphere. The major wine producing regions have a common climate, which is best for the production of wine on a large scale.

Optimal Conditions

Climate conditions are perhaps the most important factor in wine production. The conditions in which the grape is grown plays a far bigger role than soil or variety of the vine. This is in part why when selecting a bottle of wine, the particular year the wine was produced is a determining factor in the taste. Historically, there have been minor fluctuations every year in the climate of wine producing regions. Therefore, the year of the wine is an indication of the quality of the wine.

In the past 30 years, progressive warming has pushed the harvest date in wineries dramatically across the globe. The best grapes are grown by a wet spring, a hot summer and a late-season drought. For centuries, this has been the cycle which has resulted in the finest of wine. However, since 1980 the harvesting time in France for the crop has been pushed back an average of two weeks. At the moment this is producing high-quality wine in the region. Yet, if this trend continues, France will possibly become too warm to produce grapes.

Regional Shift

A 2013 study suggested that by 2050, almost two-thirds of the wine producing regions would become unsuitable for production. This could affect wine producing countries across the world such as Chile, Australia and California in the United States. Whether or not these grapes could be relocated to other areas is subject to debate. Southern Canada, China and the north-west United States could possibly become the new wine producing powerhouses. Alternatively, these regions might not see vineyards as necessary or suitable. There is already heavy agricultural demands on the world’s ecosystem. Climate change will likely push these demands even further, as grasslands and crop fields will become arid. The economic value of crops such as wheat might outweigh the production of wine.

Some Mediterranean vineyards are seeking to reintroduce older varieties of grapes which could outlast changes in the climate. The wine that we enjoy today is produced by grapes which were introduced in the 19th century in a bid to fight off a microscopic aphid. Now, scientists are attempting to rediscover and repopulate these varieties as they withstand the changes in temperatures.

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