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The consequences of climate change on wine

The problem of climate change affects everyone, and the wine industry is not spared. The damage caused by overheating, the loss of soil fertility and the alteration of ecosystems are only a foretaste of the problems that winegrowers will face.


The minor problem: wine spoilage


When the temperature rises, the first consequence (and one of the least...) for the wine is the increase of sugar in the berries, and thus of alcohol in the wine, in parallel with a decrease of acidity. It is therefore the wines themselves that will be truly transformed.


A phenomenon that can already be observed in Bordeaux wines. The traditional fresh red fruit flavors (raspberry, strawberry...) have often been replaced by cooked fruit aromas (fig, prune).


This alteration leads to another: the hierarchy of terroirs is also undergoing a real upheaval due to climate change. In the Rhone Valley, for example, the areas where the grapes did not ripen now show a higher acidity and freshness than others, more exposed to the south. Eventually, it is the production areas of the AOCs that should be traced.


The displacement of vineyards and the destruction of ecosystems


Now let's get down to business. According to the study "Climate Change, Wine and Conservation", one of the main problems, overheating, would require a systematic shift of vineyards to the north or to higher altitudes, which would lead to a radical change in wine growing areas. The world's major wine-producing regions, including Tuscany, Burgundy and Australia, would be forced to move their vineyards to untouched areas, reducing their arable land by up to 73%. The study by climatologist Lee Hannah fears that the new wine-producing power could become... Great Britain.


The consequence of this displacement to still preserved areas would be the destruction of native plant species and the disappearance of local animals that have always lived undisturbed. In addition, the landscape could be destroyed by the use of fences and chemical spraying. The areas most at risk would be the Rocky Mountains on the U.S.-Canada border and the plains of western Russia.



High temperatures: a danger to water sources


But that's not all. A temperature increase of just 1.5°C could mean a change in current grape growing practices and a deterioration in wine quality. Rising temperatures will also pose a real threat to fresh water, forcing grape growers to cool their vineyards more frequently to compensate for dehydration due to excessive heat and low rainfall.


Is there a solution?


Of course, the vineyard is just one example, but the same is true for all other types of crops. Yet the wine industry has always proven to be an environmentally friendly industry over time. It is difficult to find a definitive solution to the problem, but we can still take collective action to limit the damage.


For example, grape growers and environmental agencies should jointly plan for possible vineyard expansion to avoid areas of high environmental importance. The use of other grape varieties with similar characteristics but more resistant to climate change could also be considered, as well as raising consumer awareness by inviting them to prefer wines produced in nature-friendly vineyards.

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