Climate Change Threatens Wine Production in Europe
Projections for Europe’s grape harvest reveal climate change’s drastic impact on the global wine market. EU production accounts for some 60 percent of worldwide output, but is expected to have its smallest yielding in 36 years. Although the quality is anticipated to be excellent, many scientists warn that climate change is already a threat to some of the world’s best wines.
Since 2003, recurring heat waves and frost have significantly affected French winemakers.
“The wine harvest could reach 37.2 million hectoliters in 2017, a level that is 18 percent lower than in 2016 and 17 percent lower than the average of the last five years,” the French Ministry of Agriculture announced in an Aug. 25 statement.
Jérôme Despey, head of a governmental wine advisory board, added that the overall decrease throughout the country will produce the poorest wine grape harvest since 1945. The consequence of the diminished wine production will shake the French economy, since wine is one of France’s biggest exports. About 10 percent of wine production is lost to natural hazards every year at an estimated cost of $10 billion, according to James Daniell of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany.
However, it is not only France whose wine will be affected this fall. The European Union’s Copa-Cogeca farm union said on Oct. 10 that the extreme weather means the harvest is expected to be down 14 percent, with some areas seeing a drop as much as one third. Countries like Italy, the biggest wine producer in Europe, is anticipated to see a production drop of an outstanding 26 percent, with Sicily being hit the hardest at 35 percent.
“The impact of climate change on wine production is quite real. Producing good (or great) wine grapes requires an accurate matching of the wine grape variety to the local climate. But with climate change, the challenges will only grow as temperatures continue to rise and precipitation regimes continue to shift,” commented Elizabeth Wolkovich, an ecologist at Harvard University Center for the Environment.
This analysis comes after severe frost this spring affected wine-growing basins to varying degrees at a sensitive stage for the grapevine, and caused significant losses for winemakers. Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Hungary and France experienced this, potentially diminishing their harvests by 30 to 60 percent. Droughts were another aggravating factor.
Combined with heat waves and winds, grapes have ripened earlier, thus changing their acid levels and leading to lower-quality wines with higher alcohol content.