Friday, 11 September 2015

Impact of Climate Change on Viticulture Globally

Numerous articles have been published about the effects of climate change on the wine industry and mitigation strategies are already being implemented. It is always interesting to me that man feels compelled to control his environment. That usually lasts long into the period after realization has set in that controlling it is in fact impossible and moving on is a more sensible solution. But of course, moving on from an estate that's been in the family for centuries is not a really feasible proposition.

The higher likelihood is that someone recognizes the potential and establishes competition elsewhere which eventually becomes more successful. At that point, the original estate begins to need more income and finds new crops to plant that are more suitable to the new environment. At least, that's how I imagine things to work and have read similar stories.

Michelle Renee Mozell and Liz Thach write in their recent review article, "Though wine is not essential to human survival, wine is an important product of human ingenuity." They tackle the global literature  about the impact of climate change on the global wine industry. It's that human fascination with wine that makes wine production a sacrosanct activity and may even be the impetus that gets governments on board the climate change mitigation train.

The entire range of grape growing climate zones is about 10°C globally; for some grapes, such as Pinot noir, the range is an even narrower 2C°. Many progressive wine growers have already taken steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, including cooling the grapes by misting and changes irrigation practices. But in the long run, those types of practices will be affected by availability of fresh water as we are seeing in California. Some are changing the manner in which they process the grapes into wine and others are planting new more tolerant varieties or buying up land in more favourable climates. It is surprising how aware these growers are of the changing climate compared with the naysayers in the public domain. But of course, farmers and fishermen are always among the first to notice the changes, it's just that they are infrequently asked by the scientists to share their observations. Perhaps now they will be, especially as funding for science drops out.

But there are three areas that still need research to determine optimal strategies:
  • studies to identify how plants, microrganisms and pathogens will respond to simultaneous rise in temperature and CO2 while rainfall decreases in traditional wine growing regions
  • means by which to reduce emission of the greenhouse gasses, nitrous oxide and methane, by vineyards during the production of wines
  • resource management throughout the production chain

The authors conclude, "wine's future is tied inextricably to a vital Earth and a vital population. Grape growers and winemakers must understand both the dire condition of the planet and the small, but significant, role their industry holds in the human matrix. They must seek, therefore, in a responsible manner, their proper and effective role in the adaptation to and the mitigation of global climate change. The future of the wine industry is dependent upon an effective course of action. The Romans declared, 'Vino veritas,' or 'in wine there is truth'. The simple, yet tragic, truth is the Earth's climate is changing. How the wine industry responds will determine if the industry is to survive."
Wine Economics and Policy 3 (2014) 81–89
The impact of climate change on the global wine industry:
Challenges & solutions
Michelle Renée Mozell, Liz Thach
Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute, 1801 E. Cotati Blvd, Rohnert Park, CA 94928, USA