How will global warming affect wine?

Every week this month, we will be answering your #WednesdayWineQuestions. To send us a question, you can respond to a #WednesdayWineQuestions post on our Facebook page or simply email us here.

Q. If the average temperature of the planet changes by 2oC, what regions will become suitable for growing vines and making wine? (from I. Shyshko, via Facebook)

A. (via Katya Sapozhnikova, Wholesale division)

Global warming and wine production is a ‘hot’ topic right now. While for regions like Bordeaux and Burgundy it could mean later harvesting dates, more optimal grape ripeness and less vintage variation; for some areas of Australia or Spain, for example, it may bring the hardship of extreme alcohol levels, water shortages, reduced yields, or ultimately the impossibility of producing wines of any quality.

The question is more relevant for some regions than others, but nowhere will be spared the impact of climate change and winemakers all over the globe are already planning how to tackle this kind of temperature rise. So, it won’t necessarily mean that the world’s wine regions move – they will adapt.

There are lots of measures that can be successfully undertaken ‘on the spot’ without moving vineyards to new locations far away, like irrigation, introducing water-saving techniques, ‘mulching’ to retain moisture, rigorous canopy management, earlier harvesting, increasing yields to help retain acidity in the grapes and sustain optimal ripeness levels… All of these will help.

Planting vineyards at higher altitudes or by large bodies of water to moderate temperatures can be another way to control global warming. Even now high-altitude vineyards are quite popular in some areas, like Spain and of course, south America.

Another way is to switch grape varieties. Heat loving varieties like Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and others may become the norm in places where their cultivation is currently impossible.

Technology will also help to deal with some of the issues raising from global warming – think reverse osmosis to lower alcohol content or acidification of the must.

However, as you say some new wine producing regions will inevitably emerge further north and south in each hemisphere. The wines of the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Baltic states, northern parts of Canada and the UK may well become the ‘classics’ of the viticultural future!