How Climate Change Is Affecting The Wine We Drink

An infamously meticulous craft, the production of high quality wine is dependent on a number of factors as it makes its way from vine to bottle. In the vineyard, however, climate in particular is highly influential, holding the power to make or break the style, quality and flavor of the grapes. So now, with the effects of climate change knocking on our door sooner and with more intensity than expected, the question must be asked; how will this influence the wine we produce?

It has been noted at many wineries around the world that with rising temparatures, sugars in the grapes are able to develop more quickly than average, which is resulting in earlier harvests. In the wine grape industry, it is not uncommon for harvests to arrive at slightly different times each year. However, the earlier and earlier the fruit is ready to harvest, can affect the quality of wine.

Grapes need heat and a certain number of sun hours in order to produce balanced sugars. However, it is the diurnal temperatures, the daily fluctuations between hot and cool, that are of the most importance to the maturity of the grapes. When temperatures dip down in the evening to a difference of fifteen to twenty degrees, it allows the vine to consume the foods it produced via photosynthesis in the day time. This allows for the maturity of complex of textures and aromas, and the development of textures later imparted into the wine. Without cool temperatures in the evening and early morning hours, the process will not occur.

Depending upon the location, climate change will likely affect grape growing and winemaking somewhat differently. While understanding physiological changes of grapes in a changing climate is relatively easy, figuring out how to adjust to these changes may be more complicated. Understanding the effect of climate change at the local level will be significant for those wine regions looking to stay afloat.

While it is true that global warming is one of the biggest challenges that the wine industry has faced in recent times, it would be amiss to suggest that it signals the end of wine as we know it. Indeed, for a community known for its ability to adapt to the circumstances it is presented with, the coming years are sure to be characterized by innovative and influential methods of producing wine in the face of climate change.

Katherine May