8 Climate Change Winners and Losers

How change in climate could affect wine regions of the world


Climate change, it's happening and we seem powerless to stop it. Whether we  get our act together and get a handle on climate change (if that is even possible) or not, the changes currently in motion are certain to have a significant impact on many of the world's wine growing regions.

Those changes may not all be negative though, at least not in the short run. Let's take a look at some of the winners and losers of this profound set of climatic changes.

Photo courtesy Stefano Lubiana Wines via Flickr/CC

The World's Greatest Vineyards - Losers

The great vineyards of the world are all destined to be losers if climate change brings significantly increasing temperatures. These vineyards have established their reputations for producing great fruit because they are blessed with several positive attributes. Among these are the exposition of each parcel and its ability to make the most out of the solar energy it receives. With warming, these sites are simply becoming too hot to produce such great wines, as we saw across Europe in 2003. This record-breakingly hot vintage saw great wines produced from some lesser sites, but most greater sites turned out flabby and overly alcoholic wines.

Photo courtesy freshwater2006 via Flickr/CC

England - Winner

England has a renascent wine industry producing mostly sparkling wines. The vines in Southern England are able to produce fine sparkling wines because the climate is cool but, like Champagne, warm enough to support the production of the high acid, low alcohol, barely mature grapes ideal for sparkling wine. The last time England was so blessed with vines was at the end of the Medieval warm period in the 12th century, when temperatures were roughly equal to today's. With increasing warm and dry weather, England's wine industry will be on a path of continued growth and success.

Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons/engelsk wikipedia

Oregon - Loser

While warming might seem like it has a beneficial effect on Oregon's vineyards, and this would be true in the abstract, Oregon's biggest annual issue is not heat, but rather the rains that can come at harvest and wreck a great crop. With warmer air, those rains can be expected to be both earlier and fiercer, posing huge and possibly insurmountable obstacles to grape growers in the region.

Map courtesy Kobrand

The North Eastern U.S. and Bordering Canadian Vineyards - Winner

Producers in Michigan, New York and Connecticut have been struggling for years to get their vineyards planted with the right varieties for their relatively cool climate regions. As temperatures increase, some of the choice made will prove to be prophetic as the growing season lengthens and heat accumulation increases. These regions could come to rival the best in the world.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Australia - Loser

While Australia is large and varied, the overall impact of increasing temperatures could devastate their wine production. Areas that are already quite warm for grape growing could quickly become simply too warm, and Australia perennial plants facing challenge of securing sufficient water for irrigation could prove their ultimate undoing as the continent dries out.

Map courtesy Kobrand

New Zealand - Winner

While climate change is forecast to be more moderate in the Southern Hemisphere, changes are still on the way. In New Zealand, modestly warmer weather could help to expand the range of vineyards throughout the southern regions.

Photo courtesy Kobrand

Spain and Portugal - Losers

The Iberian peninsula is hot! It's historically been hot and grapes have adapted well to virtually the entire peninsula, but climate change may come too quickly to allow for additional adaption by the current favored varieties. In fact, between drought and excessive high temperatures, the table wines we know may very well cease to come from vast swaths of the region.

Map courtesy Kobrand

Northern Europe - Winners

Countries such as Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands have been able to expand their modest vineyards as the continent has warmed. While there is little space for vineyards in these small countries, each country has a long history of wine appreciation. Having hometown brands to support will probably mean that money flows quickly into further development here, particularly if the wines prove to be as good as neighboring French and German bottling.

Map courtesy Wikimedia Commons/de.wikipedia

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Comments

  • GDP, how do you think California wines might be affected by climate change? What about other states outside of Oregon and the northeast? Washington? Texas? Virginia?

    Sep 14, 2011 at 5:37 PM


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