Global map shows how climate change is transforming winegrowing regions

Climate change is altering growing conditions for the world’s famous winegrowing regions which, although bustling today, may no longer be suitable in the future. We might one day be congratulating ourselves for choosing a fine wine from, say, Denmark or southern England.

The climate conditions of a winemaking region fundamentally influences the quality of the wine made there. From affecting the grape varieties that can be grown, to their quality and composition at harvest.

In a new review of more than 250 papers published in the past 20 years, researchers have constructed a global map of the changing geography of wine. This includes the evolving trends in the threats and potential benefits that climate change brings to existing and new winegrowing regions.

Their findings show that there will be both winners and losers if global warming exceeds 2°C.

“About 90% of traditional wine regions in coastal and lowland regions of Spain, Italy, Greece and southern California could be at risk of disappearing by the end of the century because of excessive drought and more frequent heatwaves with climate change,” the authors write in the study, which is published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environmental.

Harvesting in most vineyards already begins 2-3 weeks earlier than it did 40 years ago due to rises in temperature accelerating vine development and the early ripening of grapes during the hottest periods in the summer.

A figure showing the global changes in winegrowing suitability.
Global changes in winegrowing suitability at temperature increases of 2 °C and 4 °C. Credit: van Leeuwen et al 2024, Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. DOI: 10.1038/s43017-024-00521-5

“Warmer temperatures might increase suitability for other regions (Washington State, Oregon, Tasmania, northern France) and are driving the emergence of new wine regions, like the southern United Kingdom,” they write.

They also found that the emergence of new disease and pests, and an increase in the frequency of extreme events, will also challenge winegrowers.

The website of Wine Australia, the Australian grape and wine sector’s statutory body for research and innovation, marketing and regulation, says that “climate change is already impacting the grape and wine community, as evidenced by changes in grape phenology and harvest dates, which has led to compressed harvests and greater pressure on vineyard and winery infrastructure.

“The ability to manage the impact of heatwaves, drought, increased fire risk and salinity to mitigate their effect on grapevine physiology, and grape and wine quality has become an integral part of vineyard management in the Australian grape and wine community.”

The authors of the new research conclude that climate change will drive major changes in global wine production in the near future and having the flexibility to adapt to these changes will be essential.

Adaptation strategies include using more drought-resistant grape varieties and rootstocks and adopting management methods that better preserve soil moisture.

They recommend that further studies should aim to assess the economic impact of climate change adaptation strategies in winegrowing when applied at a large scale.

Please login to favourite this article.