How climate change will affect the wine you love
With the effects of climate change already impacting the weather, it will only increasingly affect our daily lives and (yes, you guessed it) our drink of choice — wine!
On the eve of Earth Day, we thought what better time to talk about climate change and its influence on the wine industry.
So how exactly does climate change affect wine production? Let’s start with grape chemistry!
WINE QUALITY AND FLAVOUR
Ever wondered why wine is made from fermented grapes and not other fruits? Well, grapes are a delicate fruit. Their subtly makes them perfect for one of our favourite drinks, a good quality wine! However, while this — and the fact premium wine regions are in fringe environments with very narrow climate ranges — makes wine one of our best commodities, it also leaves the industry vulnerable to changes in weather conditions.
Temperature fluctuations cause changes in grapes as they grow. These minor changes in grape chemistry can therefore mean major changes in overall quality.
Richer, full-bodied wines with higher sugar levels and fruity flavours are associated with warmer climate vineyards — think Rose or maybe your favourite red! Increasing global temperatures (or global warming) can therefore result in over-ripening. In turn, the over-ripening of grapes causes higher sugar levels and increased alcohol content, affecting the wine's balance.
On the other hand, acidity, for example, is preserved when grapes ripen slower. Therefore, wine regions with cooler temperatures tend to produce light, fresh citrusy wines — think Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. However, this also means that colder than usual temperatures (also from climate change) can result in incomplete ripening of grapes. In turn, grapes that are not fully ripe lead to high acidity, low sugar and ultimately an ill-balanced wine.
Premium wine regions such as Bordeaux and Tuscany are now experiencing hotter conditions. For now, this is having a positive impact. However, predicted temperature increases of up to 2°C would be a disaster for our favourite French and Italian winemakers (and those in Australia and the US too, for that matter).
EXTREME WEATHER EVENTS AND ERRATIC SEASONS
In March 2021, parts of Europe experienced unusually high temperatures resulting in early growth, particularly in wine varieties that sprout early. One week later, temperatures plummeted. The same regions experienced Spring frost so bad, some say they hadn’t experienced it in 18 years. Frost damages new shoots, and the extent of the impact on vineyards and orchards has been described in some regions as an agricultural disaster.
But the weather is the weather, right? And sometimes this happens? Well, yes and no. The science unequivocally states that increased global temperatures increase the likelihood of extreme weather events and erratic seasons. It only takes a moment to scroll through the news to see that this is already true.
And while this scenario is truly a tragedy for winemakers with some producers losing 90% of their crop, consumers are expected to take a hit as well. With the damage so extensive, it stands to reason that given typical economic supply-and-demand scenarios, it’s likely the price of our favourite wines could go up, especially in the UK and beyond.
Spring frosts have been increasingly common in Europe since the 1990s. With winemakers seeking new ways to adapt to changes in weather patterns and suffering the pressures of reduced harvests, it stands to reason that this will continue to hit our back pockets.
While we’re not here to tell you what you should be doing to help stop climate change, we are here to tell you that at Kiss of Wine, we’ve done a lot of things to make sure you’re getting your favourite wines with the least impact on the planet. Learn more about the environmental benefits of canned wine here. Also, our wines are thoughtfully sourced from independent winemakers and are 100% vegan. That’s right, not all wine is vegan and you can learn more about it here.