Wine regions could shrink dramatically with climate change unless growers swap varieties

Wine grapes. Photo: Unsplash.
Wine grapes are extremely sensitive to the changes in temperature and season that come with climate change

Just as climate change threatens homes, food and livelihoods, so does it threaten the world's supply of wine. If temperatures rise by 2 degrees Celsius, the regions of the world that are suitable for growing wine grapes could shrink by as much as 56 percent, according to a new study. And with 4 degrees of warming, 85 percent of those lands would no longer be able to produce good wines.

Fortunately for wine-lovers, however, the new study also outlines an adaptation strategy. The findings indicate that reshuffling where certain grape varieties are grown could halve the potential losses of winegrowing regions under 2 degrees of warming, and reduce losses by a third if warming reaches 4 degrees. The study by LUCSUS researcher Kimberly Nicholas et al is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

Scientists have long suspected that crop diversity is key to making agriculture more resilient to climate change, and wine grapes offer a unique opportunity to test this assumption. They are both extremely diverse—there are more than 1,100 different varieties planted today, growing under a wide range of conditions—and well-documented, with harvest data stretching back centuries. Wine grapes are also extremely sensitive to the changes in temperature and season that come with climate change.

"In some ways, wine is like the canary in the coal mine for climate change impacts on agriculture, because these grapes are so climate-sensitive," said co-author Benjamin Cook from Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Researchers investigated whether utilizing this wide diversity of wine grapes could help to build resiliency. Their findings may help other areas of agriculture adapt to a warming world.

Read the full press release by Earth Institute at Columbia University

Read the full study in PNAS

Other news on wine and climate change by Kimberly Nicholas

Klimatet: Framtiden oviss för favoritvinerna ( 2018)

Favoritvinet hotas av klimatförändringarna – ”mognadsprocessen hamnar i osynk” ( SVT 2019)

Forskarens larm: Kända vinsorter kan försvinna (Expressen, 2019)