Climate change could ‘alter wine production’

7th August, 2013 by Andy Young

A climate change expert in the US has said that extreme weather events, such as the recent storms in France, will become more commonplace.

Vineyards-copyAntonio Busalacchi, who directs the University of Maryland Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Centre and chairs the World Climate Research Programme’s Joint Scientific Committee and the National Research Council Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, published his findings on Livescience.com.

Busalacchi and his research assistant Eric Hackert analysed climate change impacts on two dozen of the world’s major wine producing regions in both the new and old world.

Busalacchi claimed that some of the extreme events, like the recent hail storms across France, could become more frequent. He said: “Extreme events, such as heat waves that shut down photosynthesis and hail storms that can ruin a chateau’s annual production in a matter of minutes, will become more commonplace.”

In publishing his findings Busalacchi wrote: “Climate change will produce winners and losers among wine-growing regions, and for every region it will result in changes to the alcohol, acid, sugar, tannins and colour contained in each wine.

“For example, several Champagne houses already are looking at land in Sussex and Kent as potential sites for new vineyards, because as climate warms the region, those areas are becoming more hospitable to quality grape growing. The soil type in the region is similar to the chalky substrate of Champagne, and the cost of land is 30 times less than the premium to be paid per hectare in France.

“In general,” he added, “vineyards in higher latitudes, at higher altitudes or surrounded by ocean will benefit from climate change. These regions will experience more consistent growing seasons and a greater number of favourable growing days. They include the Rhine in Germany, the states of Oregon and Washington in the United States, and the Mendoza Province in Argentina and New Zealand.”

Busalacchi added that climate change could have an impact in the wine produced in certain areas and that long-term planning will be needed by producers when thinking about where to plant new vines.

He wrote: “Our research suggests Bordeaux and several other regions will suffer compressed growing seasons that yield unbalanced, low-acid wines that lack complexity.

“In both warm and cool regions, one result will be the same: wines will lose their traditional character. Taken to an extreme, a wine from the Left Bank of Bordeaux may move away from the classic aromas of cedar cigar box, blackcurrants and green pepper and more toward the full, rich, spicy-peppery profile of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape from the Southern Rhone.

“Given that most grapevines produce fruit for 25 to 50 years, grape growers and wine makers must consider the long term when determining what to plant, where to plant and how to manage their vineyards. In the Old World, traditions may need to change with the times as appellation regulations restrict irrigation, wine-making practices and the grape varieties than can be planted.”

Michel Chapoutier1Previously Rhône winemaker Michel Chapoutier, has challenged some climate change claims, saying that the authors lacked a basic wine knowledge.

Speaking to the drinks business about a report into the effect of climate change on vineyards by 2050, Chapoutier said that the report made sweeping “generalisations” about winemaking, with too much of a New World focus that made it less applicable to Europe as well as using viticulture as a more headline grabbing industry to further its agenda.

You can read Busalacchi’s full report here.

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