Global Warming and Wine
Global warming is a topic of great concern these days, especially since it impacts so many different aspects of life from animal and plant species, to weather trends and beyond continue to be discovered. Winemaking is of course no exception. The science and art of winemaking is so intrinsically tied to temperature and predictability of weather, that it’s no surprise that this topic is increasingly being discussed among wine aficionados and vintners around the world.
It is generally understood that over the next 50 years or so, the world of winemaking will undergo great change if the predictions of global warming prove true. Rising temperatures are redefining wine country and regions globally.
Over the last several decades, most vintners have seen improvements in their winemaking abilities as temperatures have risen – particularly those located in Europe. A 2006 report by a group of US scientists found that the average growing season temperatures in 27 of the world’s top wine regions rose by 1.3 percent in the second half of the 20th century. In particular, warming in parts of France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and the US west coast rose by well over 2 percent.
As the temperatures have risen, so too have the quality of vintages and studies have shown there to be a strong relationship between the vintage ratings and the monthly average growing season temperatures in most regions. This means that traditionally cooler climate regions benefit from the ability to ripen fruit and can consider adding grape varieties that may not have been appropriate for their climates previously. Regions such as Britain, Normandy and the Netherlands may be home to many more vineyards in the future than exist there today.
In North America, this could mean good news as well for areas including British Columbia, Washington, upstate New York, and areas of Michigan and Virginia. But as some wine regions emerge and others grow stronger, the traditionally warmer wine regions will be facing different challenges. In hot regions, grapes have a tendency to ripen to sugar ripe condition more quickly but lack flavours that normally take time to develop. Vintners in warmer regions will likely have to consider looking to other grape varieties that produce more favorably in warmer temperatures.
Of course none of this takes into consideration the many, many advances in winemaking techniques and technologies that have been developing over the centuries. But it’s certainly interesting to note that the trends in environmental change throughout the world impact everything in our lives, from the weather outside to the wine on our table.