Growing wine in Iceland? – or how climate change affects wine production

17. Dezember 2015 • Expert Talks, News • Views: 226

Everyone knows or has experienced the effects of climate change – shortage of water, floodings, melting of the polar ice and so many more… Climate data of the past 100 years show that temperatures warmed roughly 0.85°C (1.53°F), which affects also the wine business all over the globe. So, what do you think of climate change in connection to wine?

Let’s bring together some facts:

  • Grapevines are delicate and very sensitive to their environment and climate. Especially the climate is one of the key factors of wine production affecting the suitability of certain grape varieties to a particular region as well as the yield and quality of the wine produced.
  • So far, interestingly, the effects of climate change have mostly been a boon for the wine industry. Warmer temperatures have improved ripening, boosting quality of wine and increasing yield.
  • But the rising temperatures are already reshaping the wine industry: Wine production as a whole is moving north (or south in the southern hemisphere) as opportunities open up in new countries, once unsuitable for wine growing, e.g. in Scandinavia.
  • Nevertheless, some wine growers are already trying new strategies to mitigate the effects of global warmings on their crops. Some are buying properties on a higher altitude where temperatures are cooler, planting new grape varieties, harvesting earlier or planting vineyards on north facing slopes (or south-facing slopes in the Southern Hemisphere) to reduce sun exposure.

Immediately, we will apparently see little changes, but in the mid-term we might be able to experience new grape varieties in existing wine regions, a Norwegian Cabernet Sauvignon or an Alaska Riesling!
Finally, we wanted to understand the effects on winegrowers nearby in Southern Germany and asked Johannes Schneider from Schneider Weingut in Weil am Rhein for his personal opinion:

  • Do you already need to adapt your wine growing methods due to recent climate change?
    At the moment we don’t need to adapt our wine growing methods. For us the most important issue is to keep a refreshing acidity in our wines. Except for earlier harvesting we have so far not used any other means. So it is more a question of a different approach in vinification for us. That means less extraction in red and white wines e.g. due to the use of whole bunches.
  • Will you plant new / different grape varieties?
    With the Gutedel we already have a variety that will be well adapted to any increase in temperature. It is a grape that was imported from the south of europe to our region. It will always yield a fresh wine with only around 11% vol. For the red wines we stay with Pinot Noir. We are not planning to import any varieties from the southern regions like Cabernets, Syrah, Grenache and so on. For us it just doesn’t feel right to do this especially since the Pinot family has always been located in our region for 1000 of years. 

    There are other and more effective means that can be used before planting new varieites. I am talking about changes in growing methods and vinification.

  • What are your concerns on climate change for the wine industry in general?
    Maybe we will see more wine growing in northern countries and less in the southern ones. At the moment it is really difficult to give any decent outlook. There is a lot of speculation going on. Certain problems some regions are facing now may even have existed before and are only amplified by climate change. The best way to face any environmental problems as well as climate change is to change from an INDUSTRY of wine to a CULTURE of wine.

So, after this little snapshot on increasing temperatures, I allow myself a glass of my favourite Pinot Noir – as long as it is still possible!

 

Santé and cheers,

Frauke

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