One aspect of climate change that affects the production of wine is water availability. Fresh water is a finite resource. In several global wine regions, particularly Australia and California, water is becoming exceedingly hard to come by. Even in areas where water is usually plentiful, such as here in the Finger Lakes, we are seeing a level 2 drought. Dr. Roger Boulton of UC Davis says that wineries should set a goal to reuse 1 gallon of water at least 9 times to meet the current and future supply constraints of fresh water availability globally. Because water impacts both viticulture and winemaking, water availability changes as a result of climate change are very important to the global wine market.
Extreme weather caused by climate change also has an impact on wine production. High winds, hail storms, late season frosts or early fall frosts can all wreak havoc with a vineyard. German growers have seen many issues with late frosts and severe hailstorms due to earlier budbreak than average in recent years. Niagara’s growing region in Canada also faces similar threats from early springs and warm winters which puts the area’s Ice wine production at risk. Bulk wine transportation has been severely impacted over the past few years due to the increasing severity of storms across the globe as well. Chile saw extremely high winds and rough seas over the winter of 2015 in their San Antonio port which inhibited the ability of container ships to pick up bulk wine being shipped overseas for packaging. Severe storms can also cause infrastructure break downs, as was seen in New Jersey just a few months ago, when flooding washed out roads and bulk wine traffic had to be re-routed to reach its final destination.
Increasingly warm temperatures driven by climate change can also have an impact on pests and diseases affecting vineyards. Less cold winters can allow insects to thrive and increasing humidity from frequent summer storms can increase fungal pressure in vineyards. In 2015, there was a noted increase in Pierce’s disease in California, largely blamed on the two previous warm winters with drought conditions. One Kern County grower pointed out that warm winters do not kill off as many sharpshooters, the primary vector of Pierce’s disease. “You need at least 4 consecutive days below 55 degrees [F] to kill the sharpshooters and we just haven’t seen that type of cold recently.”
Finally, with global consumer concerns about climate change rising, the global wine market must tailor their marketing to appeal to these new concerns. “Wine is one of the few industries that could be Carbon negative, if it was profitable to be so” states Dr. Boulton. “Green” marketing initiatives including light weight bottles, sustainably certified vineyards, and energy efficient winery architecture are all ways that the global wine market are selling environmentally friendly wine to consumers. Even the Ontario Liquor Control Board is requiring wineries selling their products into Canada to reduce their Carbon footprint by using only lightweight glass for still wine products. Climate change is increasingly important to the wine consumer, therefore it should be increasingly important to the global wine market.
As climate change reshapes the world we live in, the global wine market must be prepared to adapt all aspects of production, transportation and marketing to change with it. From examining new varieties in the vineyard and new technologies in the winery to working through difficult transportation issues and marketing directly to an increasingly environmentally conscious consumer, climate change is impacting the wine industry in many surprising ways.