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Columbia Study: Global Warming to change Winemaking Pattern

Posted: Monday, 28 March 2016 10:36


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Columbia Study: Global Warming to change Winemaking Pattern

March 28: Some winemakers across the world including India still may not accept that global warming is here or that scientists and agriculturists will find a solution to the problem but a New Study at Columbia University revalidates the already known fact and predicts that grape growing will change its course with many of the current regions going into oblivion or forced to change the grapes in their region even as India faces an unchartered territory

The existing studies suggest that several regions in France and elsewhere in Europe will eventually become too hot for traditionally grown grapes. The vineyards may have to switch to hotter-climate varieties, change long-established viticulture techniques, move to the cooler regions or simply go out of business. The earth is shifting, and terroirs with it.

A new study published last week in the journal Nature Climate Change shows that the warming climate has largely removed the drought factor from the centuries-old early-harvest equation. It is only the latest symptom that global warming is affecting biological systems and agriculture.

Temperature is the main driver of grape-harvest timing, and in the last 30 years, progressive warming has pushed harvest dates dramatically forward across the globe. In France, where records go back centuries, since 1980 harvest dates have advanced two weeks over the 400-year average temperature, according to this new study in which the scientists analyzed 20th and 21th century weather data, pre-modern reconstructions of temperature, precipitation and soil moisture, going back to vineyard records as far back as 1600.

On the whole, France warmed about 1.5˚C during the 20th century, and the upward climb has continued. Across the world, scientists have found that each degree Centigrade of warming pushes grape harvests forward roughly six or seven days. With this effect projected to continue, a 2011 study by Lamont-Doherty suggests that a combination of natural climate variability and human-induced warming could force the finicky Pinot Noir grapes completely out of many parts of Burgundy. Other reports say Bordeaux could lose its Cabernets and Merlots. A controversial Study of 2013 projects that by 2050, about two-thirds of today’s wine regions may no longer have climates suitable for the grapes they now grow.

But other regions might show better climate to grow grapes- those no longer viable in California’s Napa Valley may find suitable homes in Washington or British Columbia. Southern England is expected to become the new Champagne. The hills of central China could be the new Chile. Southern Australia’s big wineries may switch to further south in Tasmania. “If people are willing to drink Italian varieties grown in France and Pinot Noir from Germany, maybe we can adapt,” says the co-author Elizabeth Wolkovich.

The ecologist at Harvard University conceded that the switch has not hurt the wine industry yet. “So far, a good year is a hot year,” she said. However, she points out that in 2003 when the French harvest was earliest and grapes were picked a month ahead of normal, it did not produce exceptional wines.

The Study is yet another one that implicitly warns of the global warming that would affect the Indian viticulture in a manner worse than elsewhere because of the existing hot climate-with additionally the change in the rain pattern already affecting the grape growing cycle significantly during the past few years. Liz Thach, a professor of management and wine business at Sonoma State University, said the study is telling growers what they already know. “Some people may still be skeptical about global warming, but not anyone in the wine industry,” she said. “Everyone believes it, because everyone sees it year by year—it’s here, it’s real, it’s not going away.” Let’s hope the Indian wine industry is watchful and reactive to the change.

Subhash Arora

Tags: Columbia University, Nature Climate Change, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Napa Valley, Elizabeth Wolkovich, Harvard University, Liz Thach, Sonoma State University, Indian wine industry

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