Climate change could make 70% of global wine regions unsuitable for grape growing

Up to 70% of the world’s wine producing regions could become unsuitable for grape growing if global warming exceeds 2°C, according to a new study.

Researchers warned that celebrated wine regions in California, Spain, Italy and France could disappear if the planet exceeds the 2°C threshold.

They reached this conclusion after reviewing more than 200 studies into the impacts of climate change upon grape production.

‘For temperature increases beyond 2°C, 70% of existing winemaking regions might face substantial risks of suitability loss,’ wrote the researchers in their report, which was published in the Nature Reviews Earth & Environment journal on Tuesday.

‘Specifically, 29% might experience too extreme climate conditions, preventing premium wine production, while the future of the remaining 41% will hinge on the feasibility of effective adaptation measures.’

Average global temperatures were 1.52°C above the pre-Industrial Revolution era in the 12 months to January 2024, according to EU data.

This led to searing heat waves, extraordinary drought and deadly storms. It also had a major impact upon wine production, as yields fell to their lowest level since 1961.

The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) attributed the low levels of production to bad weather, including frost, heavy rainfall and drought.

In 2015, a total of 196 countries signed up to the 2015 Paris Agreement in a bid to tackle the negative impacts of climate change. Their shared goal is to ensure that global temperatures do not increase by more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

However, global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 1.1% year-on-year in 2023, according to the International Energy Agency. Meanwhile, a 2023 report from the UN environment programme found that the world is on track for 2.9°C of warming this century if current policies are maintained.

That could spell bad news for producers in California, France, Barossa, Stellenbosch, Mendoza and many other regions.

Six researchers from the University of Bordeaux and one from the University of Burgundy analysed the potential impacts of rising temperatures.

They segmented each continent and its wine-producing areas into macro-regions defined by specific climate-driven conditions. Ultimately, they decided that there is ‘a substantial risk of unsuitability for 49% to 70% of existing wine regions’.

The researchers added: ‘About 90% of traditional wine regions in coastal and lowland regions of Spain, Italy, and southern California could be at risk of disappearing by the end of the century because of excessive drought and more frequent heat waves with climate change.’

The researchers noted that producers can respond by growing different grape varieties and experimenting with new rootstocks. However, they warned that these adaptations might not be enough to maintain economically viable wine production in certain areas.

On the flipside, the report said that warming temperatures could make grape growing easier in regions such as the UK, northern France, Washington State, Oregon and Tasmania.

‘On a global scale, approximately 25% of current wine regions might benefit from a temperature increase capped at 2°C, and around 26% are likely to maintain their current suitability with proper management practices,’ said the researchers. ‘This implies that global warming levels below 2°C can be deemed a safe threshold for over half of traditional vineyards.’

Source: Decanter

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