Global Warming: what does it mean for the future of the world’s vines and wine?

The planet is getting warmer. The National Academy of Sciences in a recent report says  “the impacts of climate change on viticultural suitability are substantial”.

Michel Chapoutier does not agree; ”

‘When the study says temperature may rise between 1 and 2 degrees, we have  already had vintages where that happened. In 2003 or 2005 for example, when the  majority of vines coped well.’

‘Old Europe is used to dry-farming, because we are typically not allowed to  irrigate, so our roots go deep, up to 40 metres in some cases. This means our  vines are already better protected than many in the New World, where regular  irrigation is practiced. Too much irrigation leaves the vines vulnerable because  their roots may reach only 1 or 1.5 metres deep.’

‘Scientific studies have a tendancy to look so closely under the microscope  that they miss the big picture,’ he added.

‘We need studies that work out specific solutions, not scaremongering. We are  already looking at adapting yeasts, adapting vineyard practices to ensure the  health of our vineyards. There are solutions out there, but we need to have the  intelligence to allow them, not write off entire regions.’



What are their main Predictions (The National Academy of Sciences) about the Future of the Wine World?

Tim Atkin reports

1. Hot places will get too hot

California, Australia, South Africa and Mediterranean Europe will see sharp falls in production by approx 70% by 2050

2.  It will get too hot for traditional varieties currently growing in Europe to continue growing ‘naturally’ without irrigation.

3. Some cooler and more marginal grape growing areas will benefit from the heating up such as New Zealand and northern Europe.

4. There will be development of new areas currently too cool to ripen grapes such as Canada, Denmark and Ireland.

5. Change of traditional varieties for other more ‘Southern’ ones as the warmth moves northwards! ie Tempranillo in Bordeaux and Syrah for Burgundy!

But what can be done today to prepare? As Tim says, ‘Such research might sound alarmist, but 40 years is not a very long time in viticultural terms, given that it takes 15 years to establish a half-decent vineyard……..

The surprising thing is how little attention the wine trade is paying to all this, preferring to stick its head in the sand, clay, limestone or schist than confront reality. Who is planting vineyards at altitude or on cooler slopes (north- or south-facing, depending on the hemisphere in question)? Who is developing drought resistant rootstocks? Who is looking at dry farming in irrigated areas? ‘

The report is based on predictions. The findings are based on 17 climate models (I’ll spare you the details) that measured the impact of global warming on nine major wine-producing areas, using an increase in average temperatures between 2.5°C (the best we can hope for) and 4.7°C (the worst case scenario).


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.