All around the wine-producing world, particularly in places like California, where the status of vineyard areas has not been rigidly defined by history, growers are operating according to this new logic borne of climate change. There are several models in use to try and predict changes, but they are attempting to track a nonlinear problem. Intense heat or too much direct sunlight can lead to dried fruit notes or create flabby and dull wines. Producers have begun grafting new rootstocks and experimenting with different grapes. These effects are expected to be more pronounced in the northern hemisphere and will change the margins and suitability for grape growing of certain cultivars. The summer of 2019 in Southern Australia was the hottest since national records began in 1910, and it ushered in an 8% loss of white wine varieties, with Chardonnay dropping 12% to its lowest yield in the past five years. From Kent in the east through East and West Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and as far west as Cornwall, fine sparkling wines are being made, produced by the same method as Champagne, but with their own character. As areas in the Southern Hemisphere were planted with grapes, the reverse was true: North-facing slopes were most in demand. The three whites include albariño, the main white grape of northwestern Spain, which may be a good alternative to sauvignon blanc; petit manseng, from southwestern France, which, like sémillon, can make both dry and sweet wines; and liliorila, a little-known cross between chardonnay and the obscure baroque that is highly aromatic. They would be planted on hillsides, with suitable soils, facing south or southeast, where they would receive the most sun and warmth, allowing grapes to fully ripen. No two years are identical, but over time they will have seen many different weather events and learned how to respond in most cases. The Union of Bordeaux AOC and Bordeaux Supérieur winemakers unanimously approved a list of seven “varieties of interest for adapting to climate change”: Arinarnoa, Castets, Marselan, Touriga Nacional, Alvarinho, Liliorila and Petit Manseng. Around the wine-growing world, smart producers have contemplated and experimented with adaptations, not only to hotter summers, but also to warmer winters, droughts and the sort of unexpected, sometimes violent events that stem from climate change: freak hailstorms, spring frosts, flooding and forest fires, just to name a few. With climate change, that is no longer true. In the 1990s, Nicolás Catena Zapata of Catena Zapata in Argentina pioneered high-altitude vineyards in the area, planting at nearly 5,000 feet the Adrianna Vineyard, in the foothills of the Andes. Almost everything. “Having average changes is one thing, but having more and greater extremes, for example, sudden heat stress over [95˚F] can really be very damaging. Basically, the only thing we do know for certain is that it will get warmer, and that we may be able to anticipate that heat before it hits us. In warmer conditions, she says, grapes ripen quicker and more easily, which lowers their acidity and increases their sugar. Some of the plantings are now experimental, but in coming years, expect to see these areas more deeply explored. Germany, home to some of the northernmost wine regions, is one place that’s more or less lucked out across the board, having achieved excellent vintages in the heat of recent years. Even in the best years, the wines were lighter and thinner. Typically, successful vineyards have been found between 30 and 50 degrees latitude. Though there are several models in use to try and predict changes, they are attempting to track a nonlinear problem that’s dependent on a range of forthcoming scenarios. Too much rain approaching or during harvest can lead to watery grapes and a weak vintage. The winters are drier and more benign than in the past and there are late frosts that devastate the vineyards. The vineyard’s success encouraged other high-altitude plantings, which in turn suggested one possible response to the warming climate. Conversely, if these grapes are planted in overly fertile soils in warm climates, the wines they make will seem dull and flabby, with little of the character and nuance that has made them so prized. The people who grow, make and sell wine are tuned in to these nuances. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies and the terms of our, Extreme Conditions and a Changing Climate on Patagonia's Southern Winemaking Frontier, Two Producers Working to Protect the Future of Wine, Welcome to winemag.com! As the climate has warmed, regions that were once considered too cold are now demonstrating that they, too, can produce fine wine, as long as the other elements are in order. As the climate has changed, however, the problem for wine producers is no longer how to ripen grapes fully but how to prevent overripening. Bordeaux is one such place, and, at a 2019 General Assembly meeting, it finally relented. England is a perfect example. For some of the world’s best-known grapes, including pinot noir, chardonnay, nebbiolo and riesling, these borderline environments permit a combination of low yields and phenolic ripeness, in which sugar, acid and tannins are in balance for producing thrilling wine. In truth, however, this is a thin silver lining to ever-worsening viticultural challenges. Yet, at Champagne Lelarge-Pugeot in Vrigny, seventh-generation vigneron Dominique Lelarge says overall, the season was far from ideal, and that conditions throughout the past few years have been a mixed bag. These cycle changes cause some Designation of Origin grapes to ripen badly and result in the loss of quality in the resulting wines. By using our website and/or subscribing to our newsletter, Vines that once struggled to ripen have begun yielding plump, juicy grapes and incredible dry bottlings. All of these intricacies and others work in conjunction with temperature to dictate what vines can successfully grow where and for how long—and all are increasingly unpredictable or totally upended in the face of climate change.
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