The Wine World Turned Upside Down

climate changeIf you’re a wine lover devoted to the storied traditions of the wine world where the best Pinot Noir comes from Burgundy, the best Chardonnay from Chablis, the best Riesling from Germany, the best Nebbiolo from Piemonte, etc. you might find the future disconcerting if not downright threatening.

Climate change is likely to make all those assumptions obsolete.

Researchers Hannah and Alpaugh in a working paper entitled “Everything You Know about Wine is Wrong” promise a wine world turned upside down:

Everything you know about wine is right — for now. But by mid-century, it will be wrong, and here’s why. Climate change, shifting global demand, consumer preferences, new vinification techniques, and marketing will transform the industry and upend conventional wisdom….Climate change will tip the balance of suitability heavily towards these non-Mediterranean regions. Vineyards are already being established in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, in England, and in Tasmania. These non-Mediterranean vineyard areas will continue to expand….What will happen in current growing regions is less clear. Most wine suitability models suggest that conditions will deteriorate in current wine producing regions due to rising temperatures and water stress (the ratio of demand to available supplies) (Hannah et al 5 2013a).

And so this tip-toeing, reticent reaction by Burgundy officials in this story about Burgundian producers secretly experimenting with Syrah seems less amusing and quaint than downright stupid:

Officially Burgundy’s wine board, the BIVB, says the focus is now on developing with the Champenois, new disease resistant hybrids rather than trials on Syrah, however Harper’s can reveal that a handful of producers have successfully experimented with Syrah and this is leading for a new push for the late ripening grape variety to play a commercial role in Beaujolais and even further north in Burgundy.

It would probably be wise for producers in traditional regions throughout the globe to begin to seriously experiment with drought and heat resistant varietals lest they find in a few years that their multi-million dollar vineyards can produce only plonk for bulk wines. Head-in-the-sand assumptions that their former greatness will see them through might be fatal.

One comment

  1. Hi, interesting article! And disconcerting, I find. I do hope that they will not only experiment with different grape varieties but also with different locations of the vineyards, higher for example, or with different orientations. Let’s hope that these evolutions will not lead to the systematic replacement of commercially less interesting grape varieties by commercially more interesting ones.

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