ColumnWine regions around the world are being affected by climate change, and sooner than you might think.
“Is that a vineyard??”
I was in Sweden, okay, the south of Sweden, which makes it the warmer region of the country, but even here, it’s no Mediterranean climate. This is the land of snow, dark winters and hand knitted mittens after all. When it comes to drinks, Aquavit is the Swedish forte.
But here at the edge of a plot of farmland there were several rows of bright green vines. Swedish wine? There has to be more at play here than a heartfelt desire to become a vintner.
Around the world, wine regions are changing, and fast. Early this year a paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which estimated that by 2050, we will have lost anywhere from 19 to 73 percent of the land suitable for wine-growing in the world’s major wine producing areas. But as climate change cuts out the standard players, it also gives birth to new ones, making places like China and Tasmania the upcoming hubs of reds and whites. In fact, even champagne houses are looking at land in Southern England for when the vineyard apocalypse hits.
Just like coffee, grapes are sensitive to changes in weather; even a bad season with the wrong temperatures can have drastic effects on that year’s production. Winemakers can of course put adaption plans and practices into place now to deal with the effects of climate change, planting drought-tolerant vines that require less irrigation for example, or following biodynamic practices which are more in tune with natural cycles. But wine is a big business, so it’s no surprise that new regions are being explored, and while getting your wine from Montana might sound edgy, it also comes at a cost: many of the new wine regions are often associated with important habitat for wildlife, wildlife that people are constantly working hard to protect. Yellowstone for example is a prime suspect, with good potential wine yields at the same spot as grizzly bear migration. Would you like a Grand Cru or conservation?
Back to Scandinavia.
According to the Swedish wine grower’s association, Svenska Vinodlare, there are 40 vineyards in Sweden, and if wine growing regions react to the change in climate as is projected, there may be many more to come in the next few decades. But while Sweden may win, others will lose, and even in areas that manage to deal with the change in weather patterns, they won’t be serving the same wines.
“Climate change will produce winners and losers among wine growing regions, and for every region it will result in changes to the alcohol, acid, sugar, tannins, and color in wine,” said climate scientist Antonio Busalacchi of the University of Maryland, meaning that no matter what region you’re in, the wine will inevitably change.
While it may be exciting to see new people and places making an attempt at mastering the craft of wine, it’s also a disconcerting indicator, and all the more reason to choose wines from winemakers that respect the land they work on and the process they use to create their libations. And while you’re at it save your bottles of Bordeaux for the days when French wine is a thing of the past.
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This is the latest installment of Anna Brones’ weekly column at EcoSalon: Foodie Underground, an exploration of what’s new and different in the underground movement, and how we make the topic of good food more accessible to everyone. More musings on the topic can be found at www.foodieunderground.com.
Image: Anna Brones