If you ever had any doubts about the reality of climate change, ask any winemaker in the world. From England to Australia, winemakers either lament or praise the changes warmer temperatures bring.
For instance English winemakers are delighted with the sun and warmth which is nourishing the fledging wine industry in Great Britain. But winemakers in Bordeaux aren’t so happy because it is causing havoc. Grape growers in Australia’s Barossa Valley note that the ripening period was 24 days in 2013, compared with 47 days in 1998. The implication is that wineries in cooler climates will find their grapes ripening earlier which is fine except that their vineyards are probably planted with grapes appropriate for that climate. The same is true for wineries is hot weather climes; what do they do with their grapes that will develop exorbitant alcohol levels?
Grapes left too long on the vine continue ripening and accumulate more sugar, which yeast turns to alcohol during fermentation- so more sugar means more alcohol which also affects the flavor. Does that mean that wineries have to produce dessert wines instead?
Wineries are turning to innovative techniques to try to mitigate the problem. For instance, Taylors Wines, the biggest wine company in the Clare Valley and the 11th largest in Australia by volume, is running its first trial of the delayed-pruning method. This method involves pruning plants in October, compared with the traditional time of late May or early June.
There are huge implications- Germany’s historically cool climate produces the world’s best rieslings but can warmer climates nurture riesling? Southern Italy is historically warm and harvest begins in August. Does warmer climates mean harvesting in July or June? This is really a big issue and my solution: run to the fridge and drink a glass of wine.