Climate change is real and it is changing the landscape of the wine industry across the globe. For many years grape growers and vineyard managers have been crossing their fingers and nervously changing the subject when anyone would mention climate change.
Is climate change only bad for producers? Actually, no. However, grape growing is more complicated and volatile than it has ever been.
What Is Climate Change?
According to NASA; climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place. For example, this could be a fluctuation in expected rainfall or temperature, whether it be within a month or a year. There is obviously a division concerning the catalysts of climate change. Although it is true that global weather pattern trends shift naturally – we have never seen such drastic and volatile changes. With the human global population reaching over 7.5 billion and greenhouse gases that continue to negatively impact global weather patterns, quality of life along within many industries are being heavily affected. One of which is most certainly the wine industry – i.e. grape growing.
How Does It Affect The Wine Industry?
But how does it affect grape growing and production? Plain and simple – it is becoming increasingly difficult to consistently grow high-quality grapes. Most producers across the globe will tell you that the key to making good wine is with great fruit (grapes). Unlike olive groves, which can withstand gale winds and erratic weather patterns and still produce, grapes are extremely finicky and temperamental. Of course, every varital is different and each microclimate completely unique. In general, grapes want warm dry summers and mild winters, considerable changes in day and night temperatures, and as few episodes with extreme weather as possible.
What Techniques are Vineyard Managers Implementing?
Vineyard managers across the globe certainly have trusted methods to combat issues that arise due to difficult weather. Hot growing regions will likely leave a layer of leaves that protect the fruit from overexposure to the sun. Cooler vineyard sites may prune and cut away larger leaves that shield hidden grape clusters from the sun. In some cases, massive fans are positioned throughout vineyards in order to blow stagnant humidity off the grapes. There are many tools and techniques that vineyard caretakers can implement, however, when you are fighting against the forces of mother nature – farming techniques only go so far. And when extreme weather rolls in there isn’t much to be done other than pouring a glass of wine and wishing for the best.
In late April and May, the famed Champagne region of France lost over eight million bottles worth of Champagne grapes due to catastrophic hail storms. Hail storms are not uncommon in Spring in this region. However, the severity of these storms are not the norm. The destruction of these vineyards equated to over 125 million euros of lost profit. For the larger producers these financial setbacks are not make-or-break but for the smaller producers these loses can put them out of business. When you consider the massive initial investments needed to start a vineyard and winery along with the time it takes to grow and nurture quality vines – these storms can put farmers out business and severely affect people’s lives.
To bring this discussion back to home soils – California wine country has been decimated in the past two years due to freakish fires. First and foremost the loss of lives and all those who have been affected form these fires are the most notable and tragic issues. From a wine industry point-of-view, these fires are becoming all too frequent and the losses amount to billions of dollars and decades of hard work. Once again, massive corporate vineyards can likely bounce back. However, smaller producers focused on quality and sustainability are the losers – from an industry perspective.
Wine is wonderful and people have been drinking it for a very long time. This love isn’t going anywhere so the question is how will wine production continue to be affected by the changing global climates?
While some doors are tragically closing, others are opening in unexpected places. Stay tuned for my blog next week on who the winners and losers are due to the impacts of climate change.
For now, grab a glass and drink something delicious. And while you’re at it. Share your feedback on this topic.