Published on March 13th, 2015 | by Andrea Bertoli1
How Climate Change is Impacting Wine Production
Climate change and wine production are so delicately intertwined. What is the future of the wine industry in a warming world?
Truthfully, I had not thought too much about climate change and wine production: what the effects might be, how the availability might change. Head into any Whole Foods or liquor store and there seems to be more wine than ever before. I choose organic or biodynamic, and then go home to sip, share, and savor.
But two recent articles sparked the conversation in my own head about how climate change and wine production are so delicately intertwined. This was certainly a big ‘duh’ moment. Of course we know climate change is real and happening (unless you are a US senator), and of course it is going to affect the wine business in many ways. It’s a big deal for beer too, and dozens of beer companies just signed a climate pact to reduce their climate impact to save the industry. Climate change that brings unseasonal or unprecedented rain, snow, or heat to wine-growing regions is affecting wineries in many ways.
A recent post on Oroeco shared one blogger’s experience in Argentina and how farmers there are adapting to rapid changes in their winery, one of the biggest economic forces in the country. Maddie Weiner says, “the Mendoza region [of Argentina] has already seen increasing temperatures, melting glaciers in the Andes Mountains, changing precipitation patterns, decreasing water availability and unpredictable storms.
The good news, Weiner says, is that,
“When managed well, wineries can actually help to sustain their climate and continue to produce delectable wine by minimizing their carbon footprint with practices like implementing irrigation techniques that conserve water, instituting composting processes, building recycling systems, or by choosing organic or biodynamic production methods. More importantly, as global citizens WE can take steps to protect this region and its unique agriculture. We have the responsibility to protect this region so that future generations can see its beauty and taste its deliciousness just as we do now. Choosing [Argentine wineries] that are certified organic, Fair Trade, B Corporations, and have adopted some of the environmentally friendly agricultural techniques listed above.”
On Groundswell, Thalia Patrinos writes that despite the challenges that climate change has wrought for wine production, “being a wine drinker and being an ethical shopper don’t have to be mutually exclusive [and] it’s useful to know what steps [you] can take to ensure purchases are sustainable.”
Her article looks at some of the effects of climate change and how it is affecting wine-producing regions of the world. Grapes, perhaps more so than other crops, are sensitive to their environment because it is their environment that makes wine what it is. This idea the microclimates, soil conditions, temperature and other localized factors affect the flavor of the wine is known as terroir. Terroir is important for other foods too, but especially important for wine producing regions of the world.
Related: Book Review of American Terroir
The rapid effects of climate change have the potential to restructure some of the world’s most famous wineries– and relocate them elsewhere. As Patrinos writes, “you’ve probably heard of California wines—but what about Texas wines, or Connecticut varieties?” This might very well be the not-too-distant future of wine production. This transition will be difficult, expensive, and require wineries to hedge their bets on an unstable climate, where ever it might lead them.
On Groundswell, Patrinos wants to encourage readers to choose their wines well to support more sustainable wine production. Choosing organic wines is good, but it’s important to know your labels. Organic wineries may or may not be producing organic wines; likewise, wine made with organic grapes is not necessarily organic wine. Choosing organic wine is not going to solve global climate change, but it does bring to light the power that consumers have to shape their world and reduce the overall impacts of climate. She writes,
“Organic wine is both grown and produced using sustainable practices that will guarantee it lasting for generations. Sustainable farming methods help reduce climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions, promoting biodiversity, and creating carbon sinks.”
She also recommends choosing wine with either a sustainable or biodynamic certification. These certifications ensure that, like the USDA organic label, the winery is making an effort to reduce their localized and global impact.
Find sustainable wines here:
- Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing Participants
- Oregon Certified Sustainable Wine
- Food Alliance
- Demeter certified wines