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Climate change and viticulture

Climate change and viticulture

Jules Löwenthal sep 20, 2017 wine worth knowing 0 Comments

Climate change and viticulture


In the context of the climate summit that is currently taking place in Paris, this time attention is being paid to the effects of climate change on viticulture. Bordeaux is discussed, an activity of winery Torres is briefly touched on and the prospect for Dutch winemakers is reviewed.

In Bordeaux it has on average become warmer and drier in the last thirty years. Winegrowers adapt to this - they harvest earlier. Grapes are ripe three weeks earlier than thirty years ago, but they are often picked two weeks earlier. The grapes are therefore riper when harvested and contain more sugar. More sugar means more alcohol and sweeter wines, because alcohol has a sweet taste. Now that in itself is not so bad, because it responds favorably to the demand for slightly sweeter wines. But much sweeter is undesirable, because with an alcohol percentage above 14 percent the balance is often lost.

Until 2050, winemakers in Bordeaux have the answer ready. They can use other rhizomes, making the grapes ripe a week later. They can work with late-maturing clones. Or they can use leaf management to ensure that the grapes are well protected against the sun and mature more slowly. But after 2050 they may be forced to work with varieties other than the current permitted varieties. The Institut des Sciences de la Vigne et du Vin is already conducting tests to see which grape varieties would suit Bordeaux. The Touriga Nacional from Portugal has high expectations. In 2030 it is hoped that they will have more insight into this.

Torres, a winery located in the Penedès in northeastern Spain, is also looking at how to deal with climate change. For example, they search higher-lying areas, such as the Pyrenees, for suitable wine-growing land. A higher location entails lower temperatures and a longer ripening period.

As it gets warmer and drier, the boundary for wine production is moving north. That's nice for winemakers in the Netherlands. But climate change is also causing a brisk weather, with much heavier rain and hail showers than before, which can destroy a harvest in one fell swoop.

In short, viticulture is also experiencing the effects of global warming. Sometimes there is an answer, in other cases winemakers will conclude in a few decades that they will have to do something else for their living.

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