Wine industry must diversify according to climate change report

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that around 85% of wine regions are at risk from climate change. Its conclusion is that wine makers must diversify varieties of grapes used.

Climate change is indisputably ushering in a new age of unfavourable and difficult weather conditions for winemaking regions. And the most beloved vineyards in the world must now choose between diversifying their offerings or only being able to harvest dwindling crops. This is the message from a new report authored by the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Colombia University.

Climate change will lead to wine shortage

The report says that even if the world’s governments adhere to the Paris agreement, which limits greenhouse gas emissions to causing global warming of 2C, the impact on wine as we know it would be huge. Assuming that the Paris agreement is honoured, and the world warms by only 2C, wine growing regions could shrink by 56%.

And that’s the best-case scenario. At present, the world is not on target to comply with the Paris agreement, which was signed in 2015. In 2019, greenhouse gas emissions were 4% more than when the treaty was signed. The United Nations says that current emissions trends mean the world will endure a temperature increase of 3.4C by the end of the century.

The report says that should the globe warm by 4C, then 85% of vineyard viable land would not be able to produce quality wine. This is because wine grapes are hugely sensitive to the changes in temperature and seasonality that climate change is causing.

Unavoidable loss of viable vineyards

Whether the 2C limit is maintained, or the worst case 4C warming is hit, there will be unavoidable losses in land suitable for vineyards. The team behind the report says that this is because of the shifting temperatures which would affect the grapes during their ripening period.

However, the team also says that diversification of grape varieties should be able to reduce losses in a significant way. At a global warming level of 2C and no further attempts to change this, more than half of the current wine-growing regions in the world would no longer be suitable.

But, if wine producers change to grape varieties that can withstand more temperature changes, then just less than a quarter of viable vineyards will be lost. For example, the team suggests that in Burgundy wine growers should replace current grapes such as Pinot Noir with Grenache or Mourvedre as they can withstand higher temperatures. Similarly, in Bordeaux, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon could be replace with the heat loving Mourvedre grape.

Challenges for traditional wine growing regions

The study recognises that these kinds of changes would be difficult in regions steeped in history. It would also affect the legalities surrounding which grapes have to be used in specific regions to qualify as certain wines.

However, change is already happening in some regions. In Bordeaux, for example, Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape. Only a few others have been legal to use, including Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. However, in July 2019 this changed when Bordeaux wineries authorised four new red grapes. These were specifically endorsed to tackle rising temperatures in the region and are Arinarnoa, Castets, Touriga Nacional and Marselan.

Further discussions are ongoing throughout Europe regarding new laws to make it easier for traditional wine regions to diversify the grapes they grow. Not only will this mean an enormous culture change for regions that have been growing the same varieties for centuries, but also from consumers who must accept that their favourite wines may change.

Diversification is the way forward for winemakers

The study says that certain cooler regions in New Zealand, the US Pacific Northwest and in Germany could be mostly unscathed under the 2C warming scenario. These regions might become more suitable for varieties including Grenache and Merlot, while grapes that need cooler temperatures could move into brand new wine growing regions further north.

Regions that are currently very hot, such as in Spain, Italy and Australia will face the biggest loss of vineyard land, according to the scientist behind the report. This is because they’re already limited to planting only grapes that can grow in the hottest temperatures.

Under the 4C global warming scenario, diversification and grape swapping will be less affective. The report shows that planting only climate-specific grapes in rapidly heating areas will reduce losses by about a third (from 85% to 58%).

Ultimately, the study concludes that there is much to be done to protect the world’s wine growing regions. And how well any chosen strategy will work will depend upon the winegrowers being able to adapt locally.

France Dominates Global Wine Industry

New figures have indicated that France dominated the global wine industry last year, selling more wine in terms of value than any other country throughout 2015.

Global consumption figures

Global industry body The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) recently released worldwide wine sale and consumption figures for 2015. OIV’s data suggests that five nations are responsible for drinking half the world’s supply of wine. In descending order they are the US (31%) France (11%), Germany (9%), Italy (9%) and China (7%).

According to the OIV, American wine enthusiasts consumed an extraordinary amount of the tipple in 2015; around 31 million (m) hectolitres to be precise. The US was followed by France, at 27.2m hectolitres and there was a massive rise in wine consumption in China. In 2014, wine enthusiasts in The People’s Republic consumed 15.5m hectolitres, this rose to 16m hectolitres last year.

Wine sales by volume

Now let’s turn to wine sales. In terms of exports by volume, Spain was the most successful wine-producing nation of 2015. French news outlet The Local reports that the Iberian nation exported 24m hectolitres of wine last year. Italy followed, exporting 20m hectolitres of wine by volume in 2015,

With this, the Italian market share for wine now measures an impressive €5.3 billion (bn). If you want to see why Italian wine was so popular with consumers last year, buy the Dal Forno Romano Amarone della Valpolicella 2003 from Ideal Wine Company. This wonderfully vibrant, incredibly robust Italian red will absolutely blow your taste buds away.

Wine sales by value

OIV figures show that the global wine market grew 11% in 2015, meaning that it was worth a phenomenal €28.3bn by the close of the year. In terms of value, France was the most successful wine exporter of 2015. France’s market share value expanded to 29% last year, meaning that the country’s wine sector is now worth €8.2bn. At 14m hectolitres, France was third in terms in wine export by volume in 2015.

No country does fine wine like France, which is often regarded as the capital of the global wine making industry. From Champagne to Bordeaux, French wine regions have been making the tipple for centuries, honing their skills to ensure they can provide consumers with the finest wines in the world. This reputation for excellence allowed France to lead the world in wine exports by value in 2015.

Try our Bordeauxs

If you want to try the best that the French wine industry has to offer, look for a bottle produced in Bordeaux. Known for its scintillating reds, Bordeaux is a standout French wine making region whose products have proved consistently popular the world over. Purchase the Chateau Margaux 1993 from Ideal Wine Company today to find out what a superb Bordeaux wine tastes like!