CLIMATE CHANGE AND VITICULTURE AFTER THE PANDEMIC
We have been discussing the impact of climate change on the wine industry for years. Will traditional grape growing areas disappear and other wine producing areas appear? Can grapes be an indicator of climate change? How will the pandemic affect the fight against climate change? These are some of the many questions which are being raised in our sector.
Global warming is transforming landscapes and crops around the world, but the wine industry in particular is one of the industries most affected by climate change. A study published by the specialist journal PNAS warns that even if the Paris Agreements are complied with, i.e. the temperature increase is maintained at 2ºC, 56% of traditional wine producing regions will no longer be suitable for wine production.
How does climate change affect the vine?
Vines are among the most drought- and temperature-resistant plants that exist, but grapes are very sensitive.
The spring months are now much drier, summer temperatures have become more extreme, with fewer frosts in winter and more in spring. These factors, among others, lead to a disparity in the phenolic ripeness and alcohol content of the grapes. In other words, the hotter it is, the more sugar is produced, the more alcoholic is the wine, the lower its acidity, resulting in a wine with unbalanced acidity and less longevity.
The increase in temperature and the decrease in water does in turn mean some vines may not survive. The PNAS study outlines a possible strategy for the reorganization of regions and varieties worldwide. Regions that are currently colder would become suitable for growing varieties that are better adapted to heat, such as Grenache. Vines from colder climates, such as Pinot Noir or Riesling, could at the same time spread to countries without a winemaking tradition, such as the United Kingdom, Sweden or Norway. Regions that are most sensitive to climate impact would disappear, such as the vineyards of Castilla La Mancha (470,000 hectares of vineyards).
What about the pandemic in the fight against climate change?
All over the world we have seen how the lockdown and reduction in industrial and commercial activities resulting from the coronavirus outbreak has led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. It has been proven that our behaviour has a profound influence on the environment and the ecosystem around us.
This crisis has become an opportunity to change our habits. It is very likely that a new society is emerging. A new awareness of community and social co-responsibility could be decisive for our future and that of the planet.
When this situation is over, the problems with climate change, air pollution in cities or the loss of biodiversity will still be there, they are not going to disappear. But it is very likely that society will emerge from this pandemic stronger, more resilient and more aware.
It is important to emphasize that the future remains in our hands. There are still some opportunities to fight climate change, as well as to adapt our winegrowing to a warmer world. We just need to understand this as a society and to act accordingly.