Changing climate on course to rewrite world’s wine lists

It’s 2050 and shoppers are stopping off at Ikea to buy wine made in Sweden.

A Nordic fantasy? Well, not according to climate experts, who say the earth’s warming phase is driving a wave of change through the wine world.

As new frontiers for viniculture open up, the viability of traditional production areas is under threat from scorching temperatures and prolonged drought.

And in between the two extremes, some long-established styles are being transformed. Some whites once renowned for being light and crisp are getting fatter and more floral, while medium-bodied reds are morphing into heavyweight bruisers.

“I have no doubt that we will still have vineyards in traditional regions, but we have to think of new strategies,” said Fernando Zamora, an oenology researcher and professor at Spain’s Rovira i Virgili University. “And we will also have new zones for vineyards. That’s for sure,”

“Already in Germany they are making fine red wine where it used to be very difficult. And in Denmark, now they’ve started making wine.”

Climatologists predict temperatures will rise by 1ºC to 2ºC from now until 2050, a trend that is expected to be accompanied by a hike in the incidence of extreme weather.

“Can any region continue to grow the exact same varieties and make the exact same style of wines? If what we know today is correct, that is highly unlikely,” said Gregory Jones, oenology professor at Southern Oregon University.

New vineyard projects in northern Europe will be risky given the increased unpredictability of the weather and the potential for a cold snap to destroy an entire crop. So it may be that the biggest change will come in the range of wines produced in areas that, until recently, have struggled to ripen some varieties.

Tasmania, New Zealand, southern Chile, Canada, England, and the Mosel and Rhine areas of Germany are among the regions that could benefit.

“You can look anywhere in the world where there are relatively cool climate regions that today are much more suitable than they were 30, 40, 50 years ago, because the climates were too cold then. People couldn’t ripen fruit,” said Jones.

Like Zamora, Jones forms part of an international committee for the agriculture and forestry climate change programme run by France’s research institute.

They are tasked with formulating strategies to cope with climate change. While wine grapes might not be necessary to feed the earth’s population, the vine is more sensitive to climate than plants such as rice and corn, which could provide valuable insight for essential future food supplies.


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