Climate Change and Wine

In Spain and Chile the wine growers, with vast acreages and millions of dollars at stake, are preparing for the inevitable. Changes in temperature affect the sugars, harvest times, and qualities of the wine. This piece on Spain was from early September, 2008.

In Spain, the country with more land under vines than any other, it is harvest time for wine growers.

Ten years ago, most wineries would start gathering in their grapes during September. However, climate change has caused the temperature to rise and now grape varieties are ripening up to a month earlier.

…Wine makers, like Miguel Torres, are starting to take the threat of climate change very seriously.

Mr Torres is one of Spain’s biggest winemakers but he is also something of a climate change boffin and all around his vineyard you can see how seriously he takes this problem.

Between the Torres vines, giant solar screens generate heat energy, dozens of photovoltaic panels produce electricity and water is recycled.

“We are dedicating 5m euros (£4m) with two purposes,” he explains.

“Purpose number one is reforestation, we have done this already in Catalonia and in Canary Islands.

“And the second purpose is anything related to research on trapping and storing carbon dioxide, and as a consequence of this we are already experimenting in our own cellars trying to capture the CO2 produced at fermentation.”


The report from Chile is datelined May, 23 of 2009.

…new studies by Chilean scientists suggest climate change could pose huge challenges for the country.

The scientists say their models show projected temperature increases of at least 1C to 1.5C and a drop in rainfall of at least 10 to 15% in the next 40 years.

“Vines are sensitive to heat stress,” he says. “Hotter temperatures can cause too fast a ripening process which can affect productivity and the quality of the wine.”

The Merlot grape is thought to be amongst those sensitive to changes in the climate.

More generations of harmful insects created by a temperature increase of just 1C could also affect grape production.

Another area of great concern is the long-term availability of water.

As in other Andean countries, the rate at which many of Chile’s glaciers are melting has increased significantly in recent years, due mainly to temperature rises.

Climate scientists say Chile is probably less dependent on glacial melt for water supplies than some areas of neighbouring Peru or Bolivia.

However, they worry that the combination of more demand, less rainfall, less melting snow, and less water trapped in glaciers could combine to cause a serious decline in water availability, particularly in the summer months.

Based on hydrological simulations, [estimates are that] by 2065 the water in the [Maipo River – by far the largest source of irrigation and drinking water for the central region] could have fallen by 70%, from 170 cubic metres per second to no more than 60.


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