How Climate Change Impacts Wine

Wine, which is among the most sensitive and nuanced of agricultural products, demonstrates how climate change is transforming traditions and practices that may be centuries old.

Around the wine-growing world, smart producers have contemplated and experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of unexpected, sometimes violent events that stem from climate change: freak hailstorms, spring frosts, flooding and forest fires, just to name a few.

Farmers have been on the front line, and grape growers especially have been noting profound changes in weather patterns since the 1990s. In the short term, some of these changes have actually benefited certain regions.

Places, like England, that were historically unsuited for producing fine wine have been given the opportunity to join the global wine world, transforming local economies in the process.

In areas like Burgundy, Barolo, Champagne and the Mosel and Rhine Valleys of Germany, where great vintages were once rare, warmer growing seasons have made it far easier to produce consistently exceptional wines. This run of prosperity has sent land values (and wine prices) soaring, and it has turned farmers and winemakers into global superstars.

Even with such success, the character of these wines has evolved in part because of the changing climate — in some cases subtly, in others deeply.

And more disruptions are coming, much faster than anybody expected. The accelerating effects of climate change are forcing the wine industry, especially those who see wine as an agricultural product rather than an industrial beverage, to take decisive steps to counter or adapt to the shifts.

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