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Rising temperatures threatens 70% of wine regions for grape production: study

Recent studies raised concerns regarding the future of wine production as climate change-induced alterations in temperature patterns

By Ground report
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Rising temperatures threatens 70% of wine regions for grape production: study

Recent studies published in the journal Nature Review Earth and Environment have raised concerns among scientists regarding the future of wine production. The research indicates that climate change-induced alterations in temperature patterns are likely to severely impact grape production, subsequently affecting wine quality and production volumes in the coming decades.

The study predicts that up to 70 per cent of the world's grape-growing regions will experience significant temperature increases, rendering them too hot for optimal grape cultivation. Traditional wine-producing areas across Europe and Southern California, including renowned regions in Spain, Italy, Greece, and Southern California, are particularly at risk.

Climate change impacting grape production

A projected two-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures could spell disaster for 90 per cent of these viticultural areas, leading to substantial losses in grape yields and wine production. The changing climate conditions, characterized by more frequent droughts, heat waves, and overall warmer temperatures, are disrupting the delicate balance required for quality grape production.

Researchers note that warmer temperatures are accelerating the grape ripening process, causing harvests to occur earlier than in previous decades. This premature ripening alters grape composition and impacts wine quality, with many wine-growing regions already experiencing shifts in harvest times by several weeks.

A row of vines in a field with a blue sky in the background. Vineyard wine field. Photo Credit: Needpix.com

The comprehensive analysis, based on over 250 scientific studies, highlights the intricate interplay between climate variables like temperature, rainfall, humidity, radiation, and carbon dioxide levels, all crucial factors for successful wine production.

According to the research findings, grapes rank as the world's third most valuable horticultural crop, following potatoes and tomatoes. The total value of grapes in 2016 was estimated at $6.8 billion. In 2020, global grape production reached 80 million tonnes across approximately 74 million hectares of land. Nearly half of this production (49 percent) is allocated for wine and spirits production.

The study underscores the economic and environmental significance of climate change on viticulture and emphasizes the urgent need for adaptation strategies to sustain global wine production and quality standards amidst changing climatic conditions.

Which areas production will increase, and which will suffer loss?

Globally, wine-producing regions are primarily located in mid-latitudes, including California, southern France, northern Spain, Italy, Australia, Stellenbosch (South Africa), and Mendoza (Argentina). These areas boast climates warm enough for grapes to ripen optimally without extreme heat, and their relatively dry conditions help mitigate grape disease risks.

The researchers, concentrating on Southern California, the southern Mediterranean, South Africa, and Australia, predict that rising temperatures will predominantly impact already hot regions initially.

Research findings suggest that while traditional wine regions will face challenges due to climate change, rising temperatures will create conducive environments for improved production in other regions such as Washington, Oregon, Tasmania, Northern Germany, Scandinavia, and Northern France.

A bunch of grapes growing in a field Grapes palatinate wine. Photo Credit: Rawpixel

Estimates indicate that 11 to 25 percent of existing wine regions could experience increased production with temperature rises, while new grape-growing areas might emerge at higher latitudes and altitudes, potentially leading to new wine regions like the Southern United Kingdom. However, the suitability of these areas will hinge on forthcoming temperature changes.

Extreme weather events like heatwaves, heavy rains, potential hailstorms, along with new pests and diseases, pose challenges to grape production in certain regions, notes the study. Nonetheless, rising temperatures may alleviate pest and disease pressures in other areas, benefiting overall yields.

The study suggests that existing wine producers can adapt by altering grape varieties and rootstocks, along with implementing improved training and management practices to cope with rising temperatures to some extent.

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