Enjoy Your Favorite Wine Before Climate Change Wrecks It

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In fact, the heat creates some volatile compounds—that’s the “nose” you get when you taste wine—that break down at high temperatures. “The notes are pushed to what a cognitive scientist would call the ‘cooked’ side of the spectrum: very jammy, or cooked fruit,” says Gambetta. “This could be good. Some people like wine like this and that’s fine. So it all has to do with the identity of the community. “

The best weather for winemaking is warm days and cool nights, with the temperature and cooling of the grapes. But climate change is changing this cycle dramatically. “It’s the nights that are warming up faster than the days,” says Forrestel. “You don’t freeze fruit at night. And then when you go past the ideal temperature during the day, you have a breakdown of many important things. “

Even in the absence of drought, higher temperatures cause plants to lose more water. This reduces the yield of the grapes, meaning the winemaker may have less water to work with. Combined and drought, the yield is very low. “If you take Bordeaux, where I work, the rainfall has been stable if you look at it for the last 100 years,” says Gambetta. “But because the temperature is rising and rising, that makes the water less useful for agriculture.”

Vineyards can also receive more water. As the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture, which is a dangerous thunderstormthe reason flood of disasters we are already seeing it all over the world. If there is too much rainwater in the vineyard for a long time, it prevents the roots of the vine from breathing properly.

However, the grape plant is surprisingly hardy: Without additional irrigation, Mediterranean varieties like grenache can produce good yields and produce good wines with as little as 14 inches of rain per year. Grapes can overcome drought with low yields, or drop their leaves, which is known as defoliation. It won’t kill the vine itself, so it can go back once the rain comes.

But as climate change makes droughts more frequent and frequent, some wine regions are feeling the pinch. “In 2022, what was the worst by any definition in Europe—in Portugal, and parts of Spain—had very weak vines, crushed vines,” says Gambetta. “Then you can get into this risk phase where you don’t have the most risk in that season, but you can get results that continue in the following seasons.”

To get used to it, the vineyards can start watering. But this comes with additional costs, and it can put a strain on local water supplies: If a drought hits an area, everyone else will need more water. And even then, these plants have to cope with the intense heat of Europe.

Another option is for the vineyards to move north as the weather warms. In fact, the new newspaper reported that in northern Europe and North America, suitable areas for wine production could increase between 80 and 200 percent, depending on the amount of warming that will occur. Wine production is now increasing in the south of the UK, for example, and in Oregon and Washington in the US.

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