Will Climate Change Affect Global Wine Production?

A presentation at Will Climate Change Affect Global Wine Production? by Emma Young

If you have been keeping up with the news over the past few years then you’ll know that stories about climate change are absolutely everywhere, and are becoming harder to ignore. Most people are at least somewhat aware of what climate change is and that it will have negative effects that we will need to deal with, but the specifics are less well known and understood by the general public. 

For example, most people know that driving a car is not the best thing for the environment and that eating less meat reduces your carbon footprint, but not many people have spent time thinking about the effects of climate change on one of our most loved and culturally important products: wine. Aside from the small number of cultural traditions that prohibit the consumption of alcohol, wine is universally loved and is something that is associated with celebration and the finer things in life. 

We celebrate with it, worship with it, we commiserate with it, and sometimes we just love a good glass of it alongside a delicious meal. Not only this, but wine has also been used historically and is still used to this day in religious and ritual settings. What would the world be like without wine? Will the effects of climate change cause the wine industry to collapse? Luckily, the outlook for wine making isn’t looking anywhere near this bleak, and there is a lot to celebrate and be thankful for if you love wine. 

The effects of climate change on wine making

Without a doubt, grapes are one of the most sensitive crops you can attempt to grow. Just a few degrees of deviation from their preferred conditions can be disastrous for that year’s crop. Too much of anything in terms of heat, cold, moisture and dryness can cause a crop to wither and die on the vine, and in the worst cases the entire vine can die off, making it necessary to replant the area and hope for the best. 

Grape growers have always had the odd bad year, but as climate change’s effects become more strongly felt many vineyards are having these bad years more and more frequently. The sensitivity of grapes means they are highly susceptible to the effects of climate change, so it is sadly becoming more common for farmers ro lose their entire crop to a bout of bad weather. Everything from French to Chilean wine will be affected over the years as parts of the world become warmer and drier. 

Adapting to climate change

The wine industry is a resilient and adaptable one that has been able to weather some of the worst natural and manmade events throughout history. Even during the Great Plague, people were still making and drinking wine. Climate change presents a new set of challenges for wine producers, but there are things they can do to mitigate the effects and survive into a future that looks very different to today’s world. 

Firstly, the types of grapes being grown at certain locations will need to change. As parts of southern Europe get warmer and drier, they will have to look at growing alternative grape varieties that are more suited to the newly arising conditions. Grapes that have long been cultivated in the temperate regions of France, Italy and Spain will need to move further north as conditions for wine making become more favourable in northern Europe and into Scandinavia. 

Essentially, rather than shrinking, the world’s wine regions are expected to grow and the newly available varieties are already making waves in the wine world. A good example is that these days places like Finland and Denmark are entering the conversation and are becoming increasingly known for their fine wines. In a way, though things will look different in the future and old traditions may need to be broken, this can be thought of in a positive light because the future of wine is looking pretty secure despite the challenges.

Of course, the survival and success of wine making will depend on the willingness and ability of wine producers to enact change in their sector. Global governments are working towards mitigating climate change, but this will take time and there is a certain amount of change that is inescapable at this point. As long as producers are willing to accept the limitations, the flow of wine will not stop any time soon.